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The South African school education landscape is distinctly uneven as it relates to school financing. The state’s attempt at differentiated funding via the quintile system is vaunted as an initiative to address the needs of poor schools. It parades as a commitment to a redress agenda. Since implementation, the socioeconomic demography has changed significantly for many schools. Some have experienced an exodus of fee-paying learners and an increase in poor learners residing in newly established informal settlements. There is limited understanding of the extent of the financial crises that these schools face. In this article we examine the financial management struggles of schools from low socioeconomic contexts. Eight schools in the Greater Durban area were purposively sampled and a series of in-depth interviews were conducted with school principals. The study revealed that principals were involved in constant struggles to manage their schools in the context of dire financial constraints. The advent of outsourcing of procurement is a distinct neoliberal move that relegates previously state functions to the ambit of the market. Profit-driven procurement agents systematically drain the public purse as they wilfully render services and supplies incommensurate with the charges they levy.
Keywords: neoliberalism; procurement practices; quintile system; school financial management