Mixed feelings among parents about paying for school services under lockdown

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There are mixed feelings among parents about paying for services not rendered like school fees, extra murals and scholar transport during the national lockdown.

South Africa is currently on lockdown, which has led to the closure of schools and non-essential services. Some parents want to withhold their monthly installments due to the uncertainty of the future, while others believe they are bound by contracts to pay for fees.

Zakhele Ngwenya is a father of two – a daughter in Grade 4 and a son at crèche. He has written to the crèche owner and asked why he should pay the full amount when his son has practically been home for the whole month.

“So for April, I’m of the opinion that there might be an extension. I was trying to get a consensus with the day-care owner to say what happens should we go into May? Maybe for April, I can pay a portion where it is negotiated between the two of us. But I’m not willing to pay the full amount for zero services provided.”

Ngwenya feels differently for paying for his daughter’s fees in Grade 4. He says should the school calendar year be cancelled, fees will be transferred to next year.

There seems to be consensus among parents about school fees, the issue is day-care, extra murals and scholar transport.

“For now I think it’s too soon to start saying a lot of things about the bills and everything. Let’s see how long the lockdown will actually last for. I got paid my full salary so I think it’s only fair to pay the next person so that they can pay their staff, ” says one parent.

Another parent says, “But the transport people, their argument is that they use this transport money to pay for their cars and their livelihood. With school fees I’m fine but with transport, it’s the one that’s killing me.”

Owner of a gymnastics school in Johannesburg Tammy Lisham says most of her clients have paid for the term. So they have moved to have classes online for now.

“So, for now, we are just trying to keep the kids busy and engaged. Our outlook is that if this lockdown does lift then we are still good to go for paying the bills at the end of April. The biggest worry for us is if it doesn’t lift because if it doesn’t lift then end of April our overheads won’t be able to get paid.”

Another service provider, Tracey Stayer, who owns a swimming school says she closed doors before the end of the term.

Fortunately for her, the majority of her clients had pre-paid, she needs to make up the lost lessons at the end of the lockdown, provided it does not drag onto the winter months. Stayer says COVID-19 has taught her to always prepare for the worst.

“Insurance that you can take out for loss of income. I have got insurance but it’s for when I get sick. If for some reason I can’t teach for a couple of months but I never thought to take out insurance for,  if something like so if there’s insurance like that I’d definitely look into that going forward.”

For some parents and service providers, it is still a matter of wait and see what happens with the national lockdown come mid-April.