Financing high school can seem like an impossible task, especially if you’re supporting yourself or helping to support your family. With the right resources and information, getting yourself through high school will be easier than you think.
According to the South African constitution, everyone has the right to basic education. This means that everyone should be able to complete at least grade 9 without having to worry about whether or not they can afford to go to school. After grade 9, however, government support is minimal and finishing high school on a tight budget becomes more difficult. In spite of this, it’s far from impossible.
The majority of public schools in South Africa are “no fee” schools, but these schools often don’t give learners the knowledge and skills they need to pass matric at a reasonable level because of a poor quality of teaching and limited resources. That’s not to say that successful learners don’t come out of no-fee schools, but it does require a lot of hard work. Because of this, most learners with the financial means go to public schools that require annual school fees.
The school fees for first-tier public schools can be as high as R31 000 a year. This means that the majority of learners can’t afford to go to these schools.
There are ways to finance your high school education and give yourself the same opportunities as your peers from wealthier families. You have four main options for funding your high school education: bursaries, fee exemption, scholarships and sponsorships.
Bursaries are grants that are awarded based on financial need, but might also take your academic, sporting and leadership performance into account. Bursaries can be full or partial, meaning they either cover only a portion of your schooling costs, or include all of your expenses. Bursaries can be granted by a wide range of institutions: from businesses, to your school, to private individuals. It’s often worth going out of your way to look for bursaries.
Where to find them: It’s always a good idea to ask your school of choice if they have any bursaries that you can apply for before seeking out other forms of financial aid. Also take a look at EduFunding.
If your parents are supporting you (and your siblings) and school fees take up a large percentage of their income, then you will qualify for fee exemption. Fee exemption is a government grant that exists to help families who can’t afford to send their children to fee-paying schools. These exemptions can take the form of full or partial subsidies, depending on how much your parents earn and how many of their children are attending fee-paying schools. You apply for fee exemption through your school’s bursar and these applications must be completed in January. For more information, go to this website. Have a look at this fee exemption calculator to see if you would qualify for exemption.
Scholarships are similar to bursaries except that they are fully merit-based. Scholarships are usually awarded to learners who excel in a particular field such as academics, sports or culture. Scholarships can either cover a portion of your school fees or your fees in full. Individual schools often offer them because they would like to attract talented learners or they are offered by other private institutions or individuals.
Where to find them: Many scholarships are offered by the individual schools you are applying to, so you should contact these schools for more information. Take a look at a list of some of the high school scholarships available. For a list of scholarships in the Western Cape, visit this page. EduFunding also has a few high school scholarships, be sure to take a look!
A sponsorship is when the financial burden of your schooling is taken on by an individual donor or by a group of donors. These donors often want to be involved in your education and offer you academic and emotional support as well as covering your school fees. Sponsorship programmes in South Africa aim to help talented learners from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their full potential. For more information about learner sponsorship in SA, visit this page.
Where to find them: For more information about student sponsorships, you can look up the Student Sponsorship Programme. Individual schools might also offer their own sponsorship programmes (often under different names) so it is worthwhile to contact your prospective school and ask them about ways to fund your education.
There are many opportunities for you to fund your high school education and help relieve your parents of their financial burden These opportunities require you to be motivated, dedicated and committed to becoming educated. These funding opportunities will often have minimum academic requirements and will require you to participate in extracurricular activities and take up leadership positions within your community. The South African education system is far from perfect, but if you are dedicated and willing to work hard, you will be able to find the opportunities you need to excel.
If you’re not looking to pursue tertiary education and would rather learn skills that will help you enter into and excel within a specific industry, you should have a look at completing your education at a TVET college instead of a traditional school. TVET colleges take students at a grade 9 level and give them the technical knowledge they need in order to enter into specific fields. This means that after you complete your secondary education you are industry-ready and able to find a job that will allow you to support yourself and contribute to supporting your family. Read this article to find out more about TVET colleges.