School fee exemptions in South Africa – How it works


Struggling parents can apply for school fee exemptions in South Africa

School fee exemptions in South Africa

The cost of living escalates year-on-year. Petrol, utility and food prices keen on rising. So, paying school fees may seem like another heavy burden on your shoulders.

Are you in real financial need?

We have some positive news for parents who are struggling to make ends meet. In South Africa, you can apply for an exemption from school fees. This is if you are experiencing a financial crisis. This may be a partial or total exemption of the fees.

The government put this mechanism in place to assist parents in enabling their children to receive a quality education, irrespective of their background or financial constraints. If you are in dire need of help, it’s worth applying for assistance for your children’s education.

School fee exemption application form

To apply to be exempted from school fees, you need to provide valid evidence of your inability to pay school fees to the School Governing Body (SGB). However, if you do not apply for exemption and fail to pay the fees, you will become legally liable for those fees. This is because non-payment can create budget issues for the school.

You can get an application form from the SGB through the principal of a school. Public schools are obliged to inform parents of the criteria and procedures. They are also obliged to assist them in applying for school fee exemption. The SGB must let the applicant know the outcome of the application in writing within 7 days after assessing the application for exemption.

How to apply for school fee exemptions:

  • Complete one of the school fee exemption forms at your local school
  • Send the completed form along with a letter asking for school fee exemption and a payslip or letter from your employer to the SGB (School Governing Body)
  • If you are self-employed or unemployed, provide an affidavit explaining how you support your child
  • The SGB must let the applicant know the outcome of the application in writing within 7 days after assessing the application for exemption
  • If your application is rejected, you can appeal in writing to the Head of the Department of Education in your province within 30 days of being rejected

Types of exemptions

There are different types of exemptions that you can apply for, including:

Full exemption:

If the school fees exceed 10% of the total annual family income, you can be fully exempt from paying school fees.

Partial exemption:

If the school fees are between 3.5% and 10% of your total annual family income, you can qualify for paying partial school fees.

Automatic exemption:

Automatic exemptions are usually given to orphans in child-headed households or an orphanage, children with foster parents, children with parents receiving social grants and learners placed in the care of a family member or youth care centre.

Conditional exemption:

If parents do not fall into any of the above categories but can provide evidence to prove they cannot pay the school fees, they can be exempt from paying school fees. Conditional exemptions may also be granted for parents who qualify for partial exemption but cannot pay the reduced amount.


If you fill in the form correctly and honestly, and if you really qualify for the exemption, you should get some relief on your school fees. Keep in mind, you will need to apply every year. It does not automatically carry over from the previous year.

Know your rights. For more information on how school fee exemptions in South Africa works, read:


  • Hi there I would to apply for exemption because I cannot afford to pay school fees.i want to know where do I start

  • I have a problem with my child school fees I’m not working.I didn’t pay registration they give me seven days to pay .or they send me to the school lawyer. I don’t know where to get assistance.

  • Who is responsible for school fees for my foster children. I was informed by the children’s court that the state will pay the school fees. I did the right thing by submitting all the required documentation to the school, and received a letter that they were exempt from paying school fees. However I find the context of the reply letter very degrading. If this is the way that we are treated as foster parents then I can only imagine how a person that is experiencing difficulties in paying school fees will be treated by the said SGB’S .

  • Good morning,

    i would like to know who is paying the subsidy it is a school or government, because i went to my child school the were complaining that we need to pay school fees because school is also paying teachers. Thanks.

  • I am trying to apply for exemption and school is requesting a IRP5. I have read that it is not necessary to supply bank statement cause that is personal information and it making me feel uncomfortable. Is it within my right not to give it or is it compulsory

  • My brother is doing grade 12 this year he’s 18years and I’m his guardian since we have no parents,so his foster care grant lapsed this year due to his age,I went to SASSA and acknowledged them about the issue and gave them all the documents they needed for him to access the money again but not yet received it but the school is kicking him out because we don’t have money for his school fees

  • Good afternoon I want to know you can get en exemption if is only husband is working n getting close to 7000 bt we have 4 children whose going to school n we are struggling cz he pays rent transport 4 himself to go to work

  • Good morning
    My husband is the bread winner in my family and we struggle , why does other parents get the privilege to get a subsidy and when we colours apply or is to scared to apply don’t get the opportunity. Thanks

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