Focus shifts toward expensive school uniforms

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GK CRONJE

9 March 2021

Investigations pointed out that several schools were overly prescriptive in their uniform choices, which again limited the choices and bargaining power of parents who were beholden to a small number of suppliers.

Suzuki Ermelo (WEB) 22 September 2020.jp

The Competition Commission, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and four associations representing school governing bodies (SGBs) has taken hands to address the skyrocketing costs of school uniforms. Their focus is mainly on the regulation of the procurement of school uniforms and other educational goods and services. The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at stopping schools from forcing parents to buy from exclusive suppliers will soon be a boon for cash-strapped parents in the country.

The organizations signed the MOU on Monday after years of investigations and advocacy, following complaints received from parents who were forced to buy school uniforms from exclusively selected suppliers. Competition Commissioner, Tembinkosi Bonakele, said it was important to note that it was not the commission’s intention to dictate school uniform design, but rather to ensure that uniforms were not unaffordable for parents. Bonakele said as such they called on the SGBs to be cognizant of costs when designing their uniform, and other educational goods and service regimes. “On the enforcement side, we found that the exclusive arrangements between schools and uniform suppliers were pervasive across the country, and made uniforms unnecessarily expensive and increasingly unaffordable for many South Africans,” said Bonakele. Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools legal services manager, Juané van der Merwe, stated that the memorandum marks much broader participation by influential stakeholders, and it should contribute to a better South Africa for many people and generations to come, as renewed terms and conditions comes into play.

Investigations pointed out that several schools were overly prescriptive in their uniform choices, which again limited the choices and bargaining power of parents who were beholden to a small number of suppliers. DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the MOU is aimed at solidifying working relations between the commission and the SGBs.