South African Schools and Education System
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South African Schools and Education System

Little known facts about the South African education system.

The South African school and education system is very much still bound to its apartheid legacy. So you need a bit of a history lesson in order to explain the schooling system here. Thus armed, you’ll be able to make sensible decisions as to in which school you place your children.


In the apartheid years, there was a separate government department for white children’s schools, black children’s schools and coloured children’s schools. The three departments had different funding available, different resources at their disposal and issued different exams.


The House of Representatives (HOR) was the department that handled coloured childrens schooling, the Department of Education and Training (DET) handled black children’s schooling and the white children’s schools were known as Model C Schools.


To this day former Model C schools still typically have the best facilities, best teachers and best educational opportunities for children. Former HOR schools, although not quite as sidelined as DET schools, still have really poor infrastructure and facilities. Former DET schools are by far the worst off even today.


Although the government spends almost 20% of its budget on education these days, there is a long way to go before the inequalities of the past will be fully redressed with regards to education.


All schools receive government funding, however former Model C schools are permitted to top up the funding with fees payable by the parents of the schools. Thus different Model C schools can have different budgets, different teacher to student ratios, and varying quality of facilities, all based on what the parents can afford.


Over and above these government funded schools are private or independent schools which receive no funding from the government and are funded entirely by fees paid by the parents.





Private School - Diocesan College

Private School - Diocesan College


Although the private schools usually deliver a top quality education, it must be stated that many Model Cs deliver just as good an education so before rushing off and investigating private schools, do some research on the track record of your local Model C. You just may save yourself a fortune.


Now for a bit of background about today’s legislation governing South African educational policy. Here’s what the constitution states:


Section 29 (1) of South Africa’s Constitution: “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.”


Regarding the practicalities of affordability of education and placement of children in a school of choice, here is the bottom line:


  • A parent can register a child at any school. However schools give children from a local catchment area priority, whereafter if there is still space, they will then accept other children on a first come first served basis.


  • Local children are defined as children whose parent live in the area or work in the area.


  • Having said this, the department of education is obliged to place all children in a school.


  • Children cannot be refused entrance into a school on the grounds that the parents cannot afford to pay the fees.


  • Children cannot be discriminated against on the grounds that the parents default on fee payment.


  • If both parents earn a combined annual salary of less than ten times the annual school fee, they qualify for the fee to be waived.


  • Corporal punishment is against the law in South Africa.


  • The schooling system follows a system of outcome based education.


  • You are permitted to home school your child although it is not encouraged.


  • School uniforms are compulsory.


I will follow this article up with some blog entries and photos of some of the top Cape Private and former Model C schools which I guess would be the main area of interest for newcomers to South Africa. Further down the line, I’ll do some research on the former DET and HOR schools as well.


Regarding the statements I’ve made that children cannot be refused admission to a school on the grounds of lack of affordability of the fees, I will be doing some direct research here. I have a friend from the DRC who is a refugee and is struggling under school fees at a Model C in our area (she lives near me in a garden cottage in a posh area).

So in theory her kids should be able to attend the excellent local Model C for free, as she definitely doesn’t earn 10 x their annual fee. I only discovered this rule this evening whilst researching my facts, and am keen to see what happens now, when I tell her about this. The Model C school definitely hasn’t brought this fact to her attention! I’ll keep you posted as well….



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