Schools must focus on the primary function, which is to educate
THE COMPETITION Commission of South Africa has urged schools to adhere to the school uniform guidelines which are aimed at curbing anti-competitive behaviour at schools.
A statement issued by the commission yesterday stated that this was to make sure that schools were compliant with the Competition Act but also that school uniforms were reasonable and affordable.
“The investigation into anti-competitive behaviour at schools was concluded early last year. The probe established that a number of schools still had exclusive contracts with one supplier. These contracts didn’t go through a competitive and transparent bidding process,” the commission stated.
“Given the number of schools and other considerations, it was felt that schools must focus on the primary function, which is to educate. The commission was reluctant to drag these schools through protracted litigation process and distract them from their main function.”
Sipho Ngwema, spokesperson for the commission, said all stakeholders including private schools, suppliers, governing bodies, and the government were engaged.
“We agreed on the implementation of school uniform guidelines issued by the government. These include the following: school uniforms should be as generic as possible so that it is obtainable from as many suppliers possible; exclusivity should be limited to items that the schools regards as necessary to obtain from pre-selected suppliers e.g. badges, schools should follow a competitive bidding process when appointing suppliers; schools should appoint more than one supplier in order to give parents more options; and the concluded agreements should be of limited duration.
“Subsequently, the commission signed an MOU with FEDSAS, a federation of school governing bodies, which is aimed at educating and encouraging schools to comply with the guidelines. Further, the commission engaged private schools like Curro, Advtech and Reddam House amongst others. The private schools response and cooperation was phenomenal.
“Thus, we have jointly approached the Competition Tribunal and the product of our interaction will be heard on February 6 2019.
“All the parties will make a joint announcement soon after the proceedings on the same day.”
A Kimberley parent, whose child started Grade 1 at a private school in the city yesterday, said he was able “to pick up lots of bargains” because he was not obliged to buy at any specific outlet.
“We looked for specials last year already and were able to get shirts, skirts and socks, at almost half the normal price. This year, we picked up a few other items, and also got them at bargain prices. Only the school shoes were full price.”
According to the parent, the shirts cost him around R120 each, the skirts around R80, while the shoes were around R99 a pair.
Another parent, however, whose child is also in a local primary school, stated that “everything except the grey shorts and the black shoes” had to be purchased from the school’s clothing shop.
“It costs around R1 500 to buy everything, including the prescribed sports uniform, that is needed.
“A school blazer is around R450 each, while the jersey is around R250 to R300. A tie is about R50 and a boy’s summer shirt is R200 each. The socks alone are R60 a pair – and you need a few pairs as they always get lost or go missing.”
She added that the sports clothes were about R200 for the top and R150 for the shorts.
“It has really become unaffordable for many parents and I believe it would be a lot cheaper if we could shop around and were not forced to buy specific clothing items.”
– Staff Reporter