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The state of South African Schools

These are the facts:

  • A shocking 25% of pupils who have attended school for 6 years cannot read (compared to 4% in Tanzania and 19% in Zimbabwe).
  • After 5 years of school about half the students cannot work out that 24 divided by 3 equals 8.
  • Only about 37% of children starting school go on to pass their matric exams and only about 4% earn a degree.
  • South Africa has the most unequal school system in the world – the gap between the top 20% of schools and the rest is wider than in almost every other country.

Many of these problems have their roots in apartheid where black pupils received about a fifth of the funding of their white peers and were historically taught almost no maths and science.  Today our school system once segregated by race has been replaced with one divided by wealth.  Schools in poorer areas receive more state funding but schools in richer areas charge large fees.  The problem is not a shortage of public spending on education.  In fact, South Africa spends more on education – some 6% of GDP – than any other African country and more than the average EU countries. The problem is a lack of accountability, quality of teachers and corruption.  A recent Mail&Guardian article states that 80% of the schools in South Africa could be ‘dysfunctional’.

There is hope!

It is not all gloom and doom.  There are those schools that continue to produce good results under some of the most difficult circumstances and there are the private schools that produce well educated students year after year – for those who can afford it.

Then there is also the homeschooling option that more and more families find work for them both from a cost and quality of education point of view.

Homeschooling has been legal in South African since the mid 90’s.  Many homeschoolers choose not to register with the Department of Education and so there are no accurate stats regarding the numbers in our country that could range from 50 000 to 300 000 students.  However there are global stats readily available on the internet to show that homeschooling is growing and producing good results.

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