A huge investment in education


Spending on education has increased tremendously in the post-apartheid era. 

Spending on education has increased since 1994 and South Africa’s rate of investment in education is among the highest in the world. (Image: Mathiba Molefe)

Brand South Africa Reporter

Of South Africa’s over 12-million potential schoolchildren, more than 90% percent are in school – a far higher enrollment rate than in most other developing countries.

Spending on education has increased tremendously in the post-apartheid era. In 1994, the government spent R31,8-billion on education. By 2006, this had risen to R92.1-billion – 17.8% of total government spending. At roughly 5% of national GDP, South Africa’s rate of investment in education is among the highest in the world.


The qualifications of educators have improved significantly in post-apartheid South Africa, with the percentage of under-qualified educators decreasing from 36 percent in 1994 to 26 percent in 1998. Various strategies, including the redeployment of educators, have been successfully employed to redistribute teachers to areas of greater need and establish more equitable learner/educator ratios. Whereas the average learner/educator ratio was 41:1 in 1994, by 2000, this average had changed to 35:1.

Classrooms, basic services and learning materials

The Reconstruction and Development Programme saw R1,4-billion spent on school construction and maintenance from 1995 – 97. The building of new classrooms lessened classroom shortages from 49 percent in 1996 to 40 percent in 2000. Whereas 40 percent of schools had no access to water, only 34 percent had no access by 2000. Sanitation provision has improved by 68 percent over the same period, although 16,6 percent of schools still lack toilet facilities. And whereas 59 percent of schools were without telephones in 1996, only 34 percent still lacked them in 2000.

In the pipeline

Provincial education departments have put aside a total of R1-billion over the next three years for the development and delivery of learning materials, starting in the 2002 school year. A sum of R280-million per year has been made available to improve financial management and the quality of education provision; and an additional R150-million per year will be spend on HIV/Aids programmes, implementing the pre-school Reception Year, and adult literacy and skills development.

Higher Education

The state-funded National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has been significantly expanded to fund higher education for disadvantaged students. Whereas the scheme funded 72 788 students in 1996, the fund had reached 81 609 by 2000, with funds paid out increasing from R333-million to R551-million. By the end of 2001, the total funds paid out, combined with donor money, was more than R2,8-million.

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