It is commonly held that basic education is free and compulsory. This is probably not so in South Africa. Research in this paper reveals that the notion of free and compulsory education is misunderstood and wrongly implemented by schools. For instance, when the issue of school fees are brought to the fore, the misconceptions emerge. The aim of this paper is to unravel the concept of free and compulsory education. Arguments are drawn from legislative and policy provisions. I also used empirical investigation to substantiate my arguments, concluding that while basic education is understood to be free and compulsory, the existing laws do not indicate this. School fees are not illegal, however, they need to be charged equitably, according to legislative provisions.

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