South African schools have traditionally been classified as either independent (also known as ‘private’) or public schools. While both types of schools receive funding from the state, private schools generally demand much higher school fees from the parents of children that attend, with the result that they are much wealthier schools.
Public schools are designed to be more inclusive, because the fees they charge are much lower.
Most public schools that serve poor learners, charge no fees at all. Schools are divided into five quintiles (20% of schools) according to the levels of income of parents. The three lowest quintiles (so 60% of all schools) are not allowed to charge school fees.
Public Schools can be further categorised as “Section 20 or Section 21” Schools. This refers to the section in the Schools Act which allows for the establishment of the Schools Governing Body. Section 20 schools receive little money directly but get services and textbooks paid for by the provincial department. Section 21 schools are able to manage their own finances and purchases, usually charge school fees, and get money from the department.