FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4 NOVEMBER 2021
The Equal Education Law Centre and the Centre for Child Law welcomes the protection of the right to basic education for learners with disabilities through the decision of the Commissioner of SARS to revert to allowing a wide rebate for school fees.
The decision by SARS to revert to an earlier version of the rebate follows litigation instituted by Equal Education Law Centre, represented by the Centre for Child Law, Glenoaks School NPC, and a number of parents of children with disabilities attending Glenoaks. The litigation challenged the constitutionality of SARS regressive measures – in particular a regressive amendment made by SARS in March 2020 which had the effect of reducing the rebate that parents of children with disabilities could claim from fees which they paid to private special schools. One of the consequences of this reduction was that the parents of many children with disabilities could no longer afford to send their children to these schools. Since there are few or no adequate or sufficient alternatives provided by government, this denied many learners with disabilities the right to basic education.
Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable, are routinely marginalised and are often denied their rights to quality education. On government’s own estimates, hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities are out of school entirely and even where children with disabilities are in school, government has failed to resource and equip those schools to adequately meet their educational needs. The amendment had the effect of worsening these issues by limiting the right to basic education for many learners with disabilities in South Africa to such an extent that some learners could not access school any longer.
The evidence provided by Glenoaks as well as an opinion that Equal Education Law Centre acquired from a tax expert, highlighted that the reduction to the tax rebate caused by the March 2020 amendment would result in many parents of children with disabilities being unable to place them in schools. It was clear that the March 2020 amendment infringed the fundamental rights enshrined in sections 28 and 29 of the Constitution.
The change to the earlier version of the rebate will be effective retrospectively from 1 March 2020. The Centre for Child Law and Equal Education Law Centre welcome the approach by the Commissioner of SARS. However, we are disheartened that it took litigation to prompt SARS to undo the regressive measures that were taken in March 2020.
The tax rebate will allow parents to provide their children with disabilities with access to basic education that would, absent the rebate and in the context of an inadequate public education system for learners with disabilities, be unaffordable for them. The right to education is a fundamental human right afforded by our Constitution to every person, including children with disabilities. These learners have the right to access, participate fully in and achieve success in education on an equal basis as their peers, and at the very least a revert to the old rebate is a step in the right direction.
For more information, please contact:
|Centre for Child Law||Equal Education Law Centre|
|Stanley Malematja – Attorney||Anjuli Maistry – Attorney|