Education in South Africa: How It Works, and How It’s Failing

In South Africa, the new school year begins in January. Soon, kids and instructors alike will be ushered back into the classrooms, eager to begin a new school year of learning, growth, and enlightenment. Students should take advantage of the positive energy generated by last year’s record-breaking high school graduation rate.. Westerners like myself can benefit from learning about the educational opportunities that our young South African friends will have this year in South Africa.

It is a legal requirement in South Africa to complete a primary education. South Africa is required by its constitution to make education available and affordable to all citizens. Education for all South Africans, especially adults, is a fundamental human right.

Grade R, or the first grade, is the first year of school in South Africa. Early childhood socialisation and school preparation are the primary goals of this programme. Grades 0 through 9 are devoted to General Education and Training (G.E.T. ), while grades 10 through 12 are devoted to Further Education and Training (FET). Most students choose to attend FET institutions with a focus on career-focused education and training during this time instead of finishing their high school diplomas. “Matriculated” students may choose to go on to earn degrees up to doctoral level after passing the nationally-administered Senior Certificate Examination. South Africa’s 24 state-funded colleges and universities are home to more than a million students.
Apartheid-era education created a discriminatory legacy that has taken decades to undo, but South Africa now has a strong educational foundation on which to build on. White South African children obtained a high-quality education almost completely free of charge under that system. When it came to “Bantu education,” the only option for black students was based on the discriminatory belief that there was no place for black Africans “beyond certain sorts of work” in South African society (a quote attributed to HF Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act of 1953). In the 1970s, the government spent one-tenth of what it spent on education for whites on blacks. In white schools, the average teacher-to-student ratio was 1:18 by the 1980s; in black schools, the average was 1:39. Black and white schools had distinct educational standards: 96 percent of white teachers held teaching certifications, compared to only 15 percent of black teachers. High school graduation rates for black pupils were fewer than half those for white students during apartheid.

Ending apartheid in 1994 led to the abolition of Bantu education in South Africa. Despite this, inequity and educational inequity persist in South Africa. Although apartheid ended 17 years ago, many black children in South Africa continue to be denied access to a quality education in underfunded public institutions. One-third of these schools do not even have access to a computer lab. Most public schools do not have a science laboratory, and more than half of all students share or do without books. The lack of flowing water affects more than a quarter of all schools in the United States.

People with more money in South Africa can send their children to so-called former “Model C” schools, which were formerly only open to white students (i.e., white South Africans and a small but growing segment of the black middle class). In order to cover teachers’ wages and purchase more materials, these institutions impose additional fees on their students. That these former all-white schools have higher facilities and educational standards is no surprise.

South Africa’s educational inequities are laid bare in school results. Just over half of black high school pupils passed the exam in 2009, compared to nearly all white students. 65 percent of whites and 14 percent of blacks in South Africa over the age of 20 have a high school diploma or higher. Even at the university level, there are still inequities. Despite making up the majority of South Africa’s population, just about half of the country’s college students are black Africans. Compared to the nearly half of all white South Africans, only one in every twenty black South Africans earns a degree.

St. Vincent Children’s Home’s orphaned and impoverished children are particularly vulnerable to educational inequities in South Africa. They are unable to receive the same education as their more affluent peers.. It’s impossible for them to go to school outside of the black townships or destitute rural areas where they live because of their lofty goals. As long as they don’t get an education, they’ll be stuck in a life of poverty, which will perpetuate the inequality. The Khanyisela Scholarship, which provides financial aid, is essential. How will the upcoming school year in South Africa differ from the previous one in terms of what students can expect? Thanks to your generosity, the Khanyisela Scholarship will be awarded to deserving students.