“The education industry in South Africa has never been under more pressure than it is right now,” according to Johan Roos, Senior Sales Consultant for NuPay. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the education industry to completely change the way they operate. Educators are now confronted with challenges associated with ensuring social distancing between learners, implementing required protocols in terms of cleaning of premises and facilitating daily temperature checks and related administrative duties before learners are allowed on the premises.

Roos goes on to say: “The extended lockdown has also had a negative impact on educational institutions keeping to curriculum timelines. The knock-on effect of this is that parents are starting to explore alternatives to ensure that their children are ‘keeping up’ and will be able to move to the next grade with confidence.” According to an article published in Parent24, there has been a 60% increase in enquiries made by parents exploring a move to home schooling. The Lockdown Schooling@Home SA Facebook group reported a staggering 134% increase in membership numbers since the lockdown started.

Johan Roos, Senior Sales Consultant: NuPay

Roos explains this does not bode well for schools in particular. “Schools are dependent on school fees collected from learners to finance and facilitate various initiatives and operational expenses. The day-to-day running of the school has a considerable impact on its budget, with expenses such as water and electricity, maintenance on buildings and technological requirements, to name a few. Various educational institutions utilise technology in the classrooms. Computer centres, white boards, projectors and the like are all financed by school fees. This is without considering cyber security needs such as maintaining firewalls to protect the school’s computer systems, or the cost of security companies. Employing additional staff… teachers, assistants, general workers, administrative workers, etc, is another example of expenses that these institutions must cater for.”

As an ex-deputy principal himself, Roos has an intimate understanding of the inner workings of a school and adds: “If parents choose to subscribe to home schooling, or altogether stop paying school fees as a result of the current economic climate, those lost school fees will translate into more pressure on the budgets of these institutions.”

Elaborating on the last point, Roos goes on to say that payment of school fees tends to be lower on one’s list of priorities when times are tough. “It is only natural that people focus on buying food or electricity before paying their child’s school fees. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, this leaves the school with an almost insurmountable obstacle to overcome.”

This begs the question, where to now? Roos feels that patience is key: “This is a completely unique situation and educational institutions will have to be patient. I believe that economic conditions will eventually come back to some form of ‘normality’. Until then, I would advise that governing bodies and management teams relook at budgets, prioritise expenses and decide what is feasible right now. It may be necessary to temporarily cancel certain activities or projects in order to survive in the short term.” He also advises that educational institutions regularly communicate with parents to keep them abreast of what is going on and how everyone can work together to keep the institution afloat.

He concludes by saying: “The impact education has on a child’s life is profound. The skills, both academic and social, that our youth learn from nursery school right through to university will guide them for the rest of their lives. It is a fundamental building block and should be treated as such.”