South Africa’s most expensive state schools for 2023 – with 5 now costing over R63,000

Pretoria Boys' High (Image: Facebook/Pretoria Boys' High School)

Pretoria Boys’ High (Image: Facebook/Pretoria Boys’ High School)

  • South Africa’s most expensive government schools cost about R65,000 for the 2023 academic year.
  • All but one are located in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
  • Boys’ schools dominate the list, with only two of the top 10 being girls-only.
  • The most expensive government schools are three times cheaper than their private school equivalents.
  • Here’s how fees at South African government schools compare.
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South Africa’s most expensive public schools for the 2023 academic year now cost about R65,000. Much like last year, all of the pricier government schools have increased their fees for the upcoming year, some by as much as between 7.8% and 11.5%.

Although South Africa’s most expensive state schools are not cheap, they’re significantly more affordable than their private school competitors. Choosing the most expensive government school over the most expensive private school will save you as much as R158,000 for the year.

Given the network of public schools in South Africa, there is no exhaustive list of school fees, but as in previous years, Business Insider South Africa has identified at least 13 schools believed to be among the most expensive. 

Below the top 10, most public school fees tend to average out around the mid-R40,000 mark, and there are also no-fee schools in each province.

See also | The most expensive South African private day schools in 2023 – with one now over R220,000

For the last three years, Business Insider has found Pretoria Boys’ High School to be the most expensive public school in South Africa. In 2023, fees for that school remain the highest, at R65,850.

However, given Pretoria Boys’ High below-average increase for next year, several others have come close to this mark with the top five priciest schools all breaching the R63,000 mark.

Just below Pretoria Boys’ High is King Edward VII School, which now charges just R200 less. Below them are Rondebosch Boys’ High School, Parktown Boys’ High, and Grey High School, which charge between R63,840 and R65,000.

The remainder of the top ten all charge in the R50,000-per-year region for 2023’s academic year.

As in previous years, most of the priciest public schools are in the Western Cape and Gauteng, with just one Grey High School  located in the Eastern Cape.

Boys-only school fees are also still much more expensive than girls-only school fees. There are just two girls’ high schools in the top ten, Rustenberg and Parktown. These girls’ schools sit in 9th and 10th place, respectively.

How public schools set fees

According to the South African Constitution, all children have the right to basic education, which must be free or affordable. This does not, however, mean that anyone can necessarily get free education at any school of their choice.

The free education the Constitution typically speaks to is the country’s free, no-fee schools. Government has previously drawn up a list of no-fee schools in each province.

When it comes to schools that charge fees, parents set these at a general meeting, where most parents must agree. This resolution, says the Department of Education, “will take into account the school budget, the trend in payment of school fees and exemptions which have to be granted.”

This may open the door for a school and its parent body to increase fees and ensure it remains somewhat exclusive. However, government has attempted to address this by allowing certain fee exemptions and cross-funding models.

Learners’ guardians who aren’t able to pay fees at public schools can apply for “full, partial or conditional exemptions from the payment of school fees”. 

Schools in wealthier suburbs will sometimes consider a fee exemption upon full disclosure of financials.

Here’s how fees cost at South Africa’s most expensive state schools:

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