Right to early childhood development and quality education
South Africa can boast near-universal access to primary education and gender parity at this level – milestones that have put the country on track to achieve two of the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The introduction of ‘social wage’ programmes, including the no-fee school policy and the Child Support Grant, have greatly expanded access to basic education for poor children.
Access to early childhood development (ECD) has also improved over the past decade, and enrolment in grade R (the reception year that prepares children for primary education) increased from 15 per cent in 1999 to 77 per cent in 2010. Increased investment in ECD services is needed to ensure that all young children, especially those between birth and three years of age, are given adequate care and stimulation so they can grow healthily, do well at school and become productive adults.
Improved quality of basic education is among the 12 outcomes that the government has set to achieve by 2014. However, learners’ achievements in national and international assessments are generally poor. Repetition rates are also high – especially in grades 10 and 11 – and children from the poorest households are more likely to repeat the same grade. The poorest children also have lower achievement levels in schools.