In South Africa, parents who default on school fees are increasingly being turned over to debt collectors to help debt ridden high schools.

Public schools in the country reportedly are dealing with approximately $170 million in bad debt, a problem exacerbated by rising applications for exemptions, according to the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, which represents 1,935 schools. 

Schools that grant exemptions said that the amount granted to them by the provincial education departments does not even begin to cover their budget.

A school in the Western Cape school that granted almost 170,000 in fee exemptions in 2014, said it received only approximately $4,800 from the provincial education department last year.

Federation CEO Paul Colditz said that the state of the economy likely means applications for fee exemptions from parents will continue to increase.

Brett Bentley, an attorney with Bentley Credit Control / Bentley Attorneys in South Africa, said wealthier school had debt levels of about 10% but the country’s poorer schools were saddled with debts reaching as high as 50%, leaving schools with few choices other than hiring debt collectors.  One Johannesburg girls’ school - owed more than $52,000 for 2015 and approximately $364,000 for previous years - handed the names of 34 cases to collection firms. Another high school cited in local media reports handed over the names of 88 parents to debt collectors after reporting unpaid fees of more than $61,000 in 2015. 

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.