Equal Public Schooling in Post-Apartheid South Africa, a Pipe-Dream or Reality

Seventeen years after the advent of democracy the South African schooling system is still divided between the rich and the poor. The rich and the middle-class parents send their children to more affluent schools i.e. the former model C schools and private schools, while the poor parents are compelled to send theirs to township and rural schools. The above scenario depicts the inequality that is evident in our country, and the two kinds of schooling systems assist in reinforcing the current status quo.

One will also find that despite the transformation of the funding formula for schools, the resources in more affluent schools are still more than those in less affluent schools. The state’s funding formula is more geared towards the so-called historically disadvantaged schools. But despite that the former model C schools ensure that they supplement the smaller amount of funding they receive from the state by charging higher fees from parents and raise funds from donors.

As a result of the superiority of their resources and the fact that they are located in urban areas, the former model C schools are able to attract highly qualified educators who are mostly white, while on the other hand their learners comprise mainly of those coming from the black middle-class families. Of course the opposite is the case in the township and rural schools. These schools, especially rural schools, are in most cases far from towns and their clients consists of learners from poor families.

It is no wonder that at the end of each year South Africans are always confronted with Grade 12 results that reflect these disparities. A closer look at the results shows that on average the more affluent schools in urban areas obtain excellent pass rates, while the less affluent schools always get mediocre achievement. This does not mean that one may not find few less affluent schools obtaining excellent results, but the general trend in most cases indicates the opposite.

The scenario depicted above has far-reaching ramifications for the kind of society that is found in our country today. At the one end of the spectrum there are people who occupy highly paying jobs, while at the other end we have the toiling masses who only benefit mostly from the informal economy. When one traces the origin of these masses one will discover that they either dropped off from less affluent schools, or they just managed to pass Grade 12 and could not proceed further to the tertiary level. Is this the kind of society that we want to have in future? If we want to reverse this the authorities need to examine closely and improve the schooling system in this country.

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