Independent Schools Sue the Town in Court

A regulatory change proposed by the City of Johannesburg municipality is about to put private schools in a difficult position, as the change has not been well received by the education sector.

A significant rate increase in independent schools in Johannesburg will put thousands of students at risk of losing their education and force several schools to close. One organization holds the view that independent schools should not be viewed as businesses.

Following the City of Johannesburg (Coj)’s recent decision to reclassify independent schools as business entities, rates for independent schools soared eight times more over the previous month. This implies that a school in Soweto that was previously paying R7,000 per month in rates will now have to pay nearly R70,000 per month.

As one would expect, this raised concerns among independent schools in the province. As a result, they have since opted to consult lobby group AfriForum who are taking the matter to court to have the decision reversed.

Anne Baker from the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (NAISA), said that it is well known that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) is already under pressure to increase enrollment. If private schools are forced to close, this could result in the absence of a school for 25,000 learners.

She added that although the city has continued to impose its court action, all enforcement against those who fail to pay has been blocked by the current court action.

She continued, noting that although the city has not been prevented from enforcing the debt, legal action against those who fail to pay has been put on hold.

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According to Baker, there is a distinct difference between companies registered with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as nonprofit organizations and those registered as for-profit corporations.

“The majority of the schools under NAISA are public benefit organizations carrying out a public benefit activity. The problem has been that the City of Johannesburg has blanketly said all private schools and colleges will be treated as a business and a commercial rating will be applied. Many of these schools are low-fee or middle-fee schools.”

The majority of the schools under NAISA are public benefit organisations carrying out a public benefit activity. The problem has been that the City of Johannesburg has blanketly said all private schools and colleges will be treated as a business and a commercial rating will be applied. Many of these schools are low-fee or middle-fee schools.

As a result of many parents’ financial difficulties, caused by the Covid -19 pandemic, independent schools suffered greatly and since the sector has been in the process of recovering, the City’s decision is likely to reverse that.

The City of Johannesburg proposed that the water and electricity rates be raised by between 11% and 17% and 12.19%, respectively. The City’s residents will pay price increases for water, power, and sewage that are higher than inflation if the city’s planned tariff increases are approved.

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