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School principal joins private school fees debate

Jan 31 2017 19:33
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Fin24 recently reported on the high costs of education at SA's top boarding schools.

Most fees at these schools are more than R200 000 per child for 2017 and usually includes full boarding.

Education experts also gave Fin24 their opinions on whether such an expensive private education is worth it or not. One expert cautioned that private education does not guarantee a good education, while most others pointed out that the value of private schools lie in the excellent facilities and other options offered.

Now the rector of St Stithians College, Dr Tim Nuttall, provides an opinion on the role and value of independent private education, as well as on the 2017 fees. He writes:

St Stithians College consists of five schools on one Johannesburg campus (attended daily by 2 600 students), Kamoka Bush School, and the Thandulwazi Maths and Science Academy. These seven schools under the umbrella of St Stithians College make an important contribution to high quality and holistic boys’ and girls’ education in South Africa.

The strategic intent of St Stithians is: "Inspiring Excellence. Making a World of Difference."

READ: Why I pay a fortune for private school education

Like many other excellent independent schools, St Stithians contributes to a healthy ecology of educational choice and diversity in South Africa. St Stithians is a proudly South African school with a transformative educational agenda and a leadership programme which embraces the future of our country.

The Thandulwazi Academy is based at St Stithians and is funded mostly through corporate sponsorships and private donations. Through the academy’s programmes, specialised maths and science tuition is provided weekly to 1 000 high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a teacher development programme trains 1 300 teachers annually, and 40 teacher-interns work at St Stithians.

St Stithians College is a non-profit organisation, run on sound governance principles. There are no shareholder investors expecting a return from profits made. The college’s tuition fees are set to cover the costs of delivering educational excellence. Any annual surplus is retained by the school and allocated to educational improvements.

READ: Private schools: Price tag does not determine good education - expert

There is no financial support from the Department of Education - St Stithians is self-funding. Around 67% of the annual budget is allocated to staffing costs, and the remainder to the diverse academic, sporting, cultural and leadership programmes offered by the college.

The annual budget is very carefully prepared, with due consideration to meeting the intent and strategic objectives of the college, as reflected in Strategy 2025; to the pressures on our families to afford the fees; and to the costs of offering an excellent education without state support.

Of the 2 600 students, only 130 are boarders. Many schools do not include the capital development fee (an annual contribution specifically earmarked for facilities improvement) in their published annual fee. St Stithians publishes a composite fee, which includes both tuition and capital development, and these fees (rounded) range from R86 000 to R127 000. The boarding fee is R91 000 (rounded) in the Boys’ College, resulting in a tuition and boarding total of R218 000.

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