Separated, divorced or single parents can now apply for a fee exemption for their children, without the consent of their partner, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled on Wednesday.

The SCA made the ruling in an appeal which the Western Cape Education Department lodged against the Western Cape High Court’s findings that both parents’ income must be produced when applying for a fee exemption.

In a landmark move, the SCA ruled that in circumstances where one parent was refused or failed to provide their income details, public schools shall grant a conditional fee exemption to the custodial parent.

“The decision of the first respondent, in the appeal in terms of section 40(2) of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (the Act) made on the 19 September 2013, dismissing the applicant’s appeal against the second respondent’s decision to refuse the applicant a partial exemption from the payment of the school fees as a result of her failure to institute the appeal within the prescribed period of 30 days after receipt of the notification of the second respondent’s decision, is reviewed and set aside.”

“The granting of such a conditional exemption will not limit the public school from taking legal steps to enforce payment by the other parent of the learner for the balance of the school fees. This ensures that non-custodial parents are held responsible where required,” said the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) in a statement.

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