Life as we knew it has changed on so many levels since the pandemic hit. It has created space for people to reconsider options that best meet their needs – in all areas of life. Schooling is one such area that has changed, both in itself and as a choice for those readapting to life in current times. 

For some, it has been a necessary decision for financial reasons – perhaps due to job loss or a lower earning capacity – to either:

  • Move their child from a private to a public school; or
  • Move away from the conventional schooling system entirely.

Let’s look at the costs versus the value of schooling, particularly since lockdown, and the options for schooling, home-schooling, and unschooling regarding these cost implications.

In a recent BusinessTech article on The costs of schooling in South Africa in 2021, André Wentzel, solutions manager at Sanlam, explores the basic cost of school fees plus the extra hidden costs.

He considers the basic fees to be as follows: 

  • Public school: R30,000 – R60,000 per year;
  • Private school: R100,000 – R200,000 per year.

And says: “When parents were asked to rank the annual costs of sending children to school (excluding school fees) from most to least expensive, the results were as follows:

  • Uniforms (including those for extra murals);
  • Stationery, textbooks, and course materials;
  • Technology (laptops, iPads, cell phones, and data);
  • Extra-mural activities (sporting goods, extra lessons and school trips);
  • Food (lunches, lunchboxes and cooldrinks).”

Another option that has emerged in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is that many South African schools now offer an online learning option. Kerry Fynn, CEO of AlphaWealth, says, “Over time, we may see more top-rated private schools adapting to provide purely online offerings to retain admissions and remain competitive. This could result in premium education becoming more affordable for parents”. 

Home education, in general, is less expensive than school education. It has become more viable as the trend towards remote working has grown. If remote working is not an option, one would need to weigh up the costs, but it is often the case that more is spent on a child to be kept in school than is generated by a second income. 

Parents who want to provide independent home education for their children must register with the WCED or the relevant governing body in their area. Although registration in South Africa is free, there can be costs incurred for learning support material or tutoring. SA Homeschoolers provides the following formula for calculation purposes: 

Nett cost of home education = Homeschooling costs + Loss of income – Schooling costs

Yet another option in the same cost bracket is unschooling. With reference to a 2019 IOL article entitled, Unschooling trend takes off in SA, Chelsea Geach explains the difference between homeschooling and unschooling as follows: “Unschooling is an educational trend beginning to take root in South Africa in which children lead the way in their education. Unschooling is one step further away from standard education than homeschooling. In homeschooling, children don’t attend a traditional school, but they still follow a curriculum and complete formal assessments.” One of the big attractions of unschooling is that children learn through natural curiosity and not an imposed curriculum. As a result, there is a stronger sensitivity to readiness rather than strict adherence to milestones and prescribed outcomes.

Which of these options will bring the most value and meet your family’s needs in order to thrive? If you would like personal advice to further assist with decisions around schooling or any other life choice you feel may need to be revisited, remember we at WellsFaber offer ongoing support to find the best way forward – for you to live the life you want.