Education: National Context

  • Government’s spend on education increased from R351 billion in 2018 to R375 billion in 2019, constituting 20% of the R1.83 trillion total national budget for the year. More than two-thirds of the education budget was allocated to basic education (R250 billion), R37 billion went to university transfers, R33 billion to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and nearly R13 billion to technical and vocational education and training.
  • In addition to the medium term (2019–2021) education infrastructure grant of R34 billion for building new and maintaining existing schools, an additional R2.8 billion school infrastructure backlogs grant was allocated to replace pit latrines at over 2 400 schools, 147 inappropriate and unsafe schools, and to provide water to 352 schools.

  • The medium term maths, science and technology grant allocated R1.2 billion to help train teachers and provide equipment and software to schools.

  • The number of bursaries awarded to students enrolled for initial teacher education decreased from 13 500 in 2018 to 13 000 in 2019 and will decrease further, to 12 500, in 2020.

  • The National Senior Certificate pass rate increased from 75% in 2017 to 78% in 2018. However, nearly half of the pupils who enrolled in grade one in 2007 had disappeared from the schooling system by the time the cohort reached matric in 2018. Little research has been done about why students drop out, but a 2013 academic paper, titled Progress through school and determinants of school dropout in South Africa found socioeconomic issues to be a significant factor.

  • According to the Department of Basic Education, over the past five years fewer than half of matric candidates wrote mathematics as a subject and, out of a total of 270 516 mathematics writers, only 37% passed with 40% and higher.

  • In March 2019, the Department of Higher Education and Training announced that R967 million was being allocated to the NSFAS to settle historic debt owed to universities by 52 514 continuing students who had been funded on the previous NSFAS scheme prior to the new funding support that began in 2018.