Education in South Africa
How important is education in South Africa? Education is often considered the great equalizer of society. When people have access to quality education, living conditions inevitably improve and economies grow. Although South Africa has relatively high enrollment rates, many students don’t have access to quality education.

After the fall of apartheid, Nelson Mandela sought to reinvent an education system that had categorically denied blacks a quality education in South Africa. Mandela’s reforms ended racial segregation and unlocked equal funding for all universities and schools.

South Africa has developed a progressive education system – at least in theory. According to UNICEF, South Africa spends more on education as a share of GDP than any other African nation, providing free and compulsory primary education to all children aged 7 to 15, regardless of race.

Despite these achievements, a 2013 study published by the World Economic Forum ranked South African 143rd out of 144 in effective education systems.

South African schools face a myriad of problems. 78 percent of them don’t have computers or libraries, and 27 percent don’t have running water.

In addition to this, South African public schools are riddled with low performance rates. UNICEF reports that only 12 to 31 percent of South African students reach proficiency in their coursework. Two thirds of South African young people aged 14 to 18 cannot find work because they don’t have the preparation they deserve.

Regrettably, many South African teachers also lack proficiency in the subjects they teach. As a result, most South African students do not meet international benchmarks for math and science. Long hours and a critical lack of basic school supplies put even greater strain on teachers and school staff.

A 2009 South African Department of Education study found that 5.8 percent of female secondary school students dropped out of school after becoming pregnant. Teenage pregnancy rates have only increased.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found that 15.3 percent of South African primary school children had experienced violent assaults and robbery. Teachers and principals agree that children cannot learn in such an unsafe environment.

Prior to 1991, education in South Africa was segregated, with separate education systems for blacks and whites. Black South Africans were relegated to “Bantu” school systems, which promoted black subservience to whites. These institutions created unequal learning environments based on race. Many contemporary issues plaguing education in South Africa stem from this era of neglect and abuse.

It has been 22 years since the fall of apartheid, and positive change is slow but evident. In 2013, UNSECO reported a 95 percent literacy rate among South African school-aged youth. This number shows great improvement. Education in South Africa is not a lost cause, and it will improve as teachers gain competence and schools gain the funding they deserve.

According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As a free and democratic South Africa rediscovers its identity, quality education can be afforded to the children of tomorrow.

Peter Nilson

Photo: Flickr

South Africa’s education system is badly managed and poorly equipped, with students performing far behind their African peers, according to World Policy Blog.

With the government failing to provide children with a decent education, private and fee-paying schools are becoming more popular. But not everyone can afford to access these superior schools. The City Press decided to calculate the cost of sending your child to one of these schools up to grade 12 in South Africa and here is what they found:

  • A private school costs approximately $225,700.
  • An upper-income school was estimated to cost around $41,000.
  • An average fee-paying school costs more than $15,000.

These figures were calculated based on a child who starts school in 2016 and finishes in 2028 — and include every necessity such as stationary, supplies, uniforms and boarding costs.

South Africa has struggled to provide affordable quality public education, but low-cost private schools are now on the rise and are providing alternatives to the high cost of education in South Africa.

Instead of private schools only available to the elite, low-cost private schools are providing education to middle and lower income families who feel the state education system is failing their children. According to the Economist, there are some low-cost private schools that cost as little as $1 per week.

Due to inadequate public schools, these low-cost private schools have a much bigger share of primary school pupils in developing countries than in developed ones. Elsewhere in Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, in particular, have also seen a large increase in the number of low-cost private schools opening, according to World Policy Blog.

Although the South African government has been criticized for not doing enough to address the issues with their education system, the expansion of these low-cost private schools provides the possibility of a quality education to students who cannot afford to attend elite private schools or even the average fee-paying government schools.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Business Tech, The Economist, World Policy Blog
Photo: Google Images

South Africa Mining TBOn Feb. 5, the Global Fund signed a $30 million grant to fight tuberculosis (TB) in the mining sector of South Africa.

The Global Fund, a multi-partner financial institution dedicated to fighting the spread of malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB, began its efforts in January 2015 by partnering with 10 global leaders. This meeting outlined an effective paradigm shift in the way TB is diagnosed and treated in the country’s mining sector, where TB incidence rates are at their highest.

South Africa is one of the world leaders in TB prevalence, reporting 450,000 cases of active TB in 2013, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Among this population are those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, a disease which affects nearly 20 percent of the country’s population and greatly increases a person’s susceptibility to TB.

Historically referred to as “consumption,” TB today is a deadly social disease, transmitted within the poor air quality of communal settings. In 2011, a landmark improvement to the diagnosis and treatment strategy, the GeneXpert, was introduced in South African prisons and urban areas. This state-of-the-art device speeds up diagnosis time from several weeks to several hours, marking an important step in early-stage intervention.

The Global Fund estimates that due to either a lack of resources, fear of stigma or inadequate diagnostic technology, roughly one-third of the nine million annual cases of TB are missed. New technology for early diagnosis makes up one of a few key steps toward an effective method of eradicating a disease that starts in poverty-stricken regions but can also threaten international security.

Rita Grant, senior advisor and member of the Developing Country NGO Delegation, has praised framework which seeks to combat multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), also known as Vank’s Disease. WHO states that MDR-TB arises in populations that fail to complete the whole course of treatment, allowing bacterial mutation and transmission of that mutation to those not previously infected with TB. Because those infected with MDR-TB have a higher resistance, treatment costs are higher and recovery time is longer.

The Global Fund grant will address the factors of the highly affected mining population in South Africa, as well as attempt to control disease mutations and emulate their findings for global preventative techniques for the future.

Nora Harless

Sources: allAfrica, The Global Fund, South African National Tuberculosis Association, Vaccine News Daily, World Health Organization
Photo: NewStatesman

MTN South AfricaMTN South Africa (Mobile Telephone Networks), part of a multinational telecommunication company operating in 21 countries across the world, is rewarding top performing students in rural schools across the country. The organization is honoring these studious teenagers with scholarships and laptops to enhance their education.

The beneficiaries of scholarships and 200 laptops include three top students in the LSEN (learners with special educational needs) category at rural schools. One of the elite learners, who is legally blind, will receive a personalized laptop with 10 GB of data.

The 18 scholarships will be rewarded to qualifying students per province, selected by the provincial education department. The bursaries will cover tuition, textbooks, pocket money, fees and other costs.

In an interview with It News Africa, Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager of the foundation, states that “MTN is [aware] of the socio-economic conditions that hamper academically gifted learners from furthering their studies.” She believes that “this gesture provides a lifeline to these students, providing them with hope for the future and an opportunity to break the vicious cycle of poverty and reach for their dreams.”

According to Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, MTN SA Foundation is dedicated to working in tandem with the South African government to support programs aimed at improving teaching and education in rural schools. The organization has been involved with improving the spread of knowledge and technology for over a decade.

Because the foundation works with impoverished locations that typically struggle to develop adequate places of learning, MTN SA usually creates programs that address student, teacher and teaching environmental needs.

Mtunzi-Hairwadzi also mentions in the interview that “the exceptional academic achievements of these learners is indicative of what hard work and focus can achieve.” The Foundation believes these rewards will act as an incentive and encourage even more students to excel at school. The general manager views the support from the Foundation as a “part of [the company’s] ongoing commitment to ensuring that [they] make a positive difference in the communities” where the company has a visible presence.

MTN South Africa aims to help develop a team of students that will eventually contribute to the growth and develop of the South African economy.

John Gilmore

Sources: IT News Africa, MTN 1, MTN 2
Photo: Tyballo’s Blog

Education System in South Africa
The City Press has reported a possible new tier education system in South Africa where students will be divided into three tiers based on their strengths and weaknesses.

According to Business Tech, students will be placed into one of three categories based on their assessed aptitude for each. The tiers are academic, technical occupational and technical vocational.

The academic tier will mirror the current matriculation program.

On the other hand, the technical occupational tier aims to produce students who can leave the education system in South Africa and enter the workplace immediately with skills such as spray painting, hairdressing and woodwork.

According to Mathanzima Mweli, Director General of DBE, “We will introduce these (technical occupational) subjects at grade four and will increase the number of schools offering the new subjects to hundreds or thousands.”

The technical vocational tier will include subjects such as engineering and technical drawing and focus on students who want to study trades. The technical vocational stream will offer 12 subjects.

The department of basic education hopes the new school system will result in 60 percent of students completing technical qualifications.

Moira de Roche, MD of Aligned4Learning, said, “There is no point in forcing a new learner who is good with their hands to do academic subjects. They end up failing and feeling useless, whereas they are good at many things. Hopefully, it will also result in less kids (and their parents) thinking the only option for them is a university.”

Education activist and founder of Partners4Possibility, Louise van Rhyn noted that the new tier system will enable young people to find fruitful careers by providing opportunities that are not solely focused on academic success.

Van Rhyn also said, “In addition to implementing this change, we also need to ensure that we still create opportunities for learners to participate in the knowledge economy, as this is a sure way out of poverty and these skills are critical for our future. We need a much higher percentage of learners with a solid foundation in maths and science.”

According to Business Tech, the new school system is being developed this year and will be tested in 58 schools in 2017.

Jordan Connell

Sources: All Africa, Business Tech, It Web
Photo: The Guardian

While Americans may enjoy the entertainment of recreational drones, in South Africa the devices serve an alternative purpose. Barry Mendelow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, has developed drones into what could be a life-saving delivery service.

Mendelow has dubbed his drone delivery service ‘e-Juba,’ inspired by carrier pigeons (iJuba in Zulu).

e-Juba would provide remote areas with essential medical supplies, including vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

The drones are not only designed for one-way deliveries but also allow users to send their own blood and DNA samples to labs for testing.

With this system, disease detection and diagnosis could take as little as a day. Without the drone delivery service, says Mendelow, current disease diagnosis takes up to six weeks. During this period, a patient’s condition could worsen or a contagious disease could be spread to others unknowingly.

This large window of time is due in large part to a general lack of infrastructure in rural areas. Unpaved roads, according to Mendelow, pose a significant challenge to patients that have to make their way from remote areas to labs for testing. E-Juba serves as a simple and convenient solution to the infrastructural obstacle.

Trials that Mendelow conducted demonstrated a high possibility for the drones’ success. 300 flights, each traveling about 30 kilometers, did not lose “a single cargo or artifact.”

The drones may prove especially beneficial to revolutionizing healthcare in South Africa, a country that the World Health Organization deems as having one of the “highest burdens” globally for Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.

South Africa’s 2014 incidence of TB at 834 per 100,000 people. Compare this figure to France, with a 2014 estimate of nine per 100,000 people.

Mendelow’s project is close to coming to fruition. With the trials successfully conducted, all that he now requires is clearance by the South African Civil Aviation Authority to implement e-Juba as an authorized delivery system.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: Barry Mendelow, Barry Mendelow et al., National Health Laboratory Service, New Scientist
Photo: Google Images

According to The Guardian, “youth unemployment is a global issue,” as young people account for approximately 40 percent of the world’s unemployed. Of note, 90 percent of this demographic live in developing countries, such as South Africa.

Not surprisingly, one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals seeks to address this global issue by “substantially [reducing] the proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training” by 2020.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have already started to make a difference for unemployed youth in South Africa, where the youth unemployment rate stands at a staggering 50 percent. PPPs are working to provide young workers with government funded education, internship opportunities and technical services.

PPPs run projects between the private sector and the government, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the private sector, or a combination of all three.

Zambian Youth Benefit

In Zambia for example, a PPP comprised of Unicef, Barclays and the Zambian government provided free courses focused on enterprise, entrepreneurship and communication skills.

According to The Guardian, Ernest Daka, a 22-year-old Zambian unemployed youth turned entrepreneur, credits a business and financial literacy course offered by this PPP as his motivation to become a self-starter.

Daka learned how to apply for a startup loan from a microfinance institution to purchase 50 chicks, a chicken coop, feed and charcoal.

The young entrepreneur began raising chickens after he learned more about local food supply and demand during the PPP course. Daka hired his brother as an employee and plans to package his chicken and eggs for grocery and restaurant sale in the future.

He has since repaid his loan in full and was able to pay for his brother’s school fees using profits from his business.

New Funding for PPPs

In 2014, the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) approved the financing of 48 new private sector operations with an investment of UA 1.59 billion. According to the AFDB, PPPs are one of the best ways for countries to foster development via power transport, water and sanitation and telecommunications.

As the desire for greater efficiency and better services grows, the availability of public financing resources diminishes. The South African government continues to promotes PPPs to make up for this lack of funding, improve the business environment and reduce the youth unemployment rate.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: African Development Bank Group, The Guardian, UN
Photo: Flickr

Social messaging app, WeChat recently introduced a digital wallet service in Johannesburg, South Africa.

With WeChat Wallet, users can securely store bank cards and make instant cash payments just as they would with a physical wallet. The new service also enables users to electronically send cash to friends or family.

In addition, WeChat Wallet also offers the use of three chip, PIN debit and credit cards and the capability to transact via cards verified by Visa and MasterCard.

WeChat, which is owned by Chinese juggernaut, Tencent has partnered with Standard Bank for the launch of WeChat Wallet.

When registering for the digital wallet, users automatically become Standard Bank Instant Money users, which makes it possible for those without bank accounts to use the service. Accountholders at other banks are also able to access WeChat Wallet.

Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa told IT News Africa, “The service is another way WeChat is merging the online and offline worlds, providing people with seamless payment integration in a single application. Now they won’t be inconvenienced if they forget their purses or money at home because everything they need is at their fingertips.”

WeChat Wallet is available to South Africans who are sixteen or older with a Valid ID who use iOS or Android phones. To register for the digital wallet service, all they have to do is log into WeChat, tap “wallet” then follow the step-by-step instructions.

To use the digital wallet service for in-store payments, customers simply need to scan the QR code located in stores that support this mobile payment platform and then enter the amount of their purchase into their phone. Users can even “cash in” and “cash out” via Instant Money vouchers at Standard Bank ATMs and other participating retailers.

According to Tencent, more than 200 million customers globally have added their bank cards to the mobile payment platform in November 2015.

Jordan Connell

Sources: NFC World, It News Africa


In South Africa, one company is tapping into an alternative yet ubiquitous source for drinking water—the air.

Water From Air is pioneering technology for use in domestic settings that allows clean, drinkable water to be harvested from the humidity in the air.

Even though the technology used in Water From Air’s machines is not new, the company’s CEO Ray de Vries told news24 that his company is the first to make home units available.

The machines operate according to the humidity in the air, drawing it in and cooling it to allow condensation to form in a collecting tank. The collected water is then disinfected with ultraviolet light and filtered to remove further impurities.

Since the water is drawn from the air rather than the ground, it is already cleaner and excludes contaminants more commonly found in terrestrial sources. The result is “100 percent pure and clean” water, according to de Vries.

The company manufactures different sized machines powered through solar, diesel or gas. The most popular machine is the AW3 model designed for domestic use in households and clinics. Depending on the humidity of the surrounding air, the AW3 model is capable of capturing 32 liters of water per day.

Models designed for larger scale use are estimated to be capable of producing up to 1,500 liters of water per day. The company estimates that in cities such as Cape Town where humidity averages approximately 75 percent, the device might be able to provide an average of between 25 and 28 liters of water every day.

Water From Air has sold upwards of 400 units since its debut earlier this year. As severe drought conditions persist in South Africa, the company is trying to keep pace with the growing demand for its units.

The main idea behind marketing the devices is to provide households in drier regions with a more secure supply of water, especially in times of water shortage or drought. The Water From Air devices enable users to directly harvest water from the surrounding air instead of transporting the precious resource from other areas of the country.

Unlike more expensive alternatives such as desalination, Water From Air also offers a cost-effective and novel approach geared towards sustainability.

The machines are manufactured in the company’s native South Africa, “made by South Africans for South Africans” according to de Vries. Water From Air expects to provide 300 initial jobs to South Africans and potentially add another 600 as the company’s operations continue to grow.

Jace White

Sources: Water From Air, Business Standard, News24
Photo: Flickr

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, said that free college education in South Africa could become a possibility in the future.

In a recent interview for Bloomberg Business, President Zuma said, “It’s possible, but it’s not a question you can do overnight. You’ve got to be able to have the resources.”

President Zuma spoke out about the possibility for free college education in South Africa after the recent Fees Must Fall protest over South African universities’ increase in tuition and student costs. Students protested near Zuma’s offices in Pretoria by throwing stones at buildings and starting fires on the lawn outside the buildings.

Student enrollment in South Africa’s universities has doubled to nearly 1 million since the end of the apartheid, and the government wants that number to grow to 1.6 million by 2030. However, only about 5 percent of South African families can afford to comfortably pay their children’s university fees.

The South African Institute of Race Relations has analyzed whether it would be possible to provide free college education in South Africa. The Institute suggests that it is possible if the government can adjust its spending priorities.

Right now the spending level on universities in South Africa is around 0.8 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, which comes to around 25 billion rands.

In order to make tertiary education free, an additional 71 billion rands is required. The South African Institute of Race Relations believes that such levels of funding are possible if government spending is adjusted.

The Institute found that if the state’s wage bill were to be cut by just 5 percent, it would give 22 billion rands toward universities. If military and defense were cut by 25 percent, this would send another 10 billion rands to universities. Finally, cutting off all subsidies to parastatals and other entities would deliver around 45 billion rands per year. These cuts total 77 billion rands.

According to The South African Institute of Race Relations, “our figures and estimates are deeply conservative and yet they suggest that fully subsidized undergraduate education is affordable for all students currently attending universities.”

Prioritizing government spending could make a free college education in South Africa a strong possibility, but it will take time and support from the South African government.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Bloomberg Business, Daily Maverick, IB Times
Photo: Wikimedia