SOUTH AFRICA spends a bigger share of its GDP on education than any other country on the continent. Yet its results are among the worst. Fifteen years after apartheid was buried, black children continue to receive an education that is vastly inferior to most of their white peers. Instead of ending inequality, as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) promised, the country’s schools are perpetuating it.
For Graeme Bloch, an education expert at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, his country’s education system is a “national disaster”. He says around 80% of schools are “dysfunctional”. Half of all pupils drop out before taking their final “matric” exams. Only 15% get good enough marks to get into university. Of those who do get in, barely half end up with a degree. South Africa regularly comes bottom or near the bottom in international literacy, numeracy and science tests.
University heads increasingly complain about students totally unprepared for higher education. Employers bemoan a dearth of skilled manpower, yet–by some measures–one in three South Africans has no job. A study of first-year students by Higher Education South Africa, the universities’ representative body, found only half the 2009 intake to be proficient in “academic literacy” and barely a quarter in “quantitative literacy”, while no more than 7% were deemed to have the necessary mathematics skills.