Education in KwaZulu-Natal

Education in South Africa

South Africa has 12 million learners, 366 000 teachers and around 28 000 schools - including 390 special needs schools and 1 000 registered private schools. Of all the schools, 6 000 are High schools (grade 8 to grade 12) and the rest are Primary schools (grade 1 to grade 7).

School life spans 13 years - or grades - although the first year of education, grade 0 or "reception year", and the last three years, grade 10, 11 and grade 12 or "matric" are not compulsory. Many Primary schools offer grade 0, although this pre-school year may also be completed at Nursery school.
Education - KwaZulu-Natal

Recently, great advances have been made in the introduction of new technology to the formerly disadvantaged schools. Organisations such as Khanya, (Xhosa for enlightenment) have worked to provide computer access in state schools. Many schools have created ICT (Information and Communications Technology) links with colleges across the world. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has been very active in supporting mutually beneficial partnerships.

A recent national initiative has been the creation of "FOCUS" schools. These specialise in specific curriculum areas (Business & Commerce, Engineering, Arts & Culture) and are very similar to the UK specialist schools programme.

For university entrance, a "Matriculation Endorsement" is required, although some universities do set their own additional academic requirements.

South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector, with more than a million students enrolled in the country’s universities and universities of technology. All the universities are autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than government.

Did you know?

By law, no child can be excluded from a state school if his or her parents can't afford to pay the fees. If both parents' annual earnings (before tax) are less than 10 times the annual school fees, the child qualifies for a full fee exemption. Partial exemptions can also be made for parents with financial problems. You should apply to your school governing body for fee exemption. If your application is rejected, you can lodge an appeal with your provincial education department, KwaZulu-Natal Institutions of Education

As of the 2001 Census 22.9% of the population in KwaZulu-Natal aged 20 years or more had received no education, while only 4.8% had higher education.

KwaZulu Natal has Traditional and Comprehensive Universities:

  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
    The new University of KwaZulu-Natal unites two major educational institutions in KwaZulu-Natal – the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville. The University of KwaZulu-Natal aims to be a truly South African university, that reflects the society in which it is situated – not only in terms of race, gender and class – but in terms of how it structures its values and priorities and how it responds to social needs.

    As an institution of higher learning, it is committed to academic excellence, innovation in research and critical engagement with society. With its vision to be the Premier University of African Scholarship, the University of KwaZulu-Natal draws inspiration from an African identity and takes seriously its responsibilities to the development of the African continent.

  • University of Zululand (UNIZUL)
    The University of Zululand (also known as Unizulu) has been designated to serve as the only comprehensive tertiary educational institution north of the uThukela River in KwaZulu-Natal. Its new status is in accordance with South Africa's National Plan for Higher Education aimed at eradicating inequity and costly duplication. As a result, Unizulu offers career-focused programmes as well as a limited number of relevant university degree courses that have been structured with potential employees and employers in mind

  • University of South Africa (UNISA)
    UNISA is Africa’s premier distance learning institution. They are a reputable, comprehensive, flexible and accessible Open Distance Learning institution. They offer internationally accredited qualifications and have world-class resources that inspire learners to create meaningful futures on their own terms. Their vision “Towards the African University in the service of humanity” drives them to find answers to Africa’s education and developmental problems. By forming partnerships in Africa and throughout the world, they are able to help the people of Africa achieve their dreams.

    UNISA's Campus: Pretoria (Gauteng), Provincial Centres: Florida (Gauteng), Durban and Pietermaritzburg (KwaZulu-Natal), Cape Town (Western Cape), Polokwane (Limpopo), Nelspruit (Mpumalanga), Mafikeng (North West), Kimberley (Northern Cape), Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape), Bloemfontein (Free State).

  • Universities of Technology ( known as Technikons before):
    • Durban University of Technology (DUT)
      The Durban University of Technology is a technical university in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was formed in 2002 by the merger of Technikon Natal and ML Sultan Technikon and was previously known as the Durban Institute of Technology. It has four campuses in Durban, and two in Pietermaritzburg. In 2005, around 20 000 students were enrolled.
      • Brickfield Campus - Durban
      • City Campus - Durban
      • Indumiso Campus - Pietermaritzburg
      • ML Sultan Campus - Durban
      • Ritson Campus - Durban
      • Riverside Campus - Pietermaritzburg
      • Steve Biko Campus – Durban

  • Mangosuthu University of Technology (MAN TECH or MUT)
    This is situated on the outskirts of Durban and overlooks the beautiful Indian Ocean. Technikon   education is tertiary education that provides students with career orientated skills, through a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the work place. Mangosuthu Technikon co-operates closely with commerce and industry, to ensure that the curriculum of a particular qualification is completely relevant to the chosen field and that the qualification is market related. Theoretical studies as well as a period of in-service training form part of the programme. Graduates enter the workplace equipped with the essential knowledge, range of abilities and practical experience relevant to their chosen careers.

Education History in South Africa

Pre-colonial education

Many African societies placed strong emphasis on traditional forms of education well before the arrival of Europeans. Adults in Khoisan- and Bantu-speaking societies, for example, had extensive responsibilities for transmitting cultural values and skills within kinship-based groups and sometimes within larger organizations, villages, or districts. Education involved oral histories of the group, tales of heroism and treachery, and practice in the skills necessary for survival in a changing environment.

In many Nguni-speaking chiefdoms of southern Africa, highly regimented age-groups of young men acquired knowledge and skills vital to their survival and prestige under the instruction of respected military, religious, or political leaders. The socialization of women, although sometimes done within age-groups, was more often in small groups of siblings or cousins, and it emphasized domestic and agricultural skills necessary to the survival of the family. In all of these settings, the transmission of religious values was a vital element of education.

The socialization of African youth was sometimes interrupted by warfare or political upheaval. More serious disruptions occurred in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, when government policies drew large numbers of adult men away from their homes for long periods of employment in mines or urban industries. Women were heads of households for months or years at a time. And after apartheid became entrenched in the early 1950s, security forces sometimes removed entire villages from their land and relocated them to less desirable areas in the interest of white economic development.

Colonial education

The earliest European schools in South Africa were established in the Cape Colony in the late seventeenth century by Dutch Reformed Church elders committed to biblical instruction, which was necessary for church confirmation. In rural areas, itinerant teachers (meesters ) taught basic literacy and math skills. British mission schools proliferated after 1799, when the first members of the London Missionary Society arrived in the Cape Colony.

Language soon became a sensitive issue in education. At least two dozen English-language schools operated in rural areas of the Cape Colony by 1827, but their presence rankled among devout Afrikaners, who considered the English language and curriculum irrelevant to rural life and Afrikaner values. Throughout the nineteenth century, Afrikaners resisted government policies aimed at the spread of the English language and British values, and many educated their children at home or in the churches.

After British colonial officials began encouraging families to emigrate from Britain to the Cape Colony in 1820, the Colonial Office screened applicants for immigration for background qualifications. They selected educated families, for the most part, to establish a British presence in the Cape Colony, and after their arrival, these parents placed a high priority on education. Throughout this time, most religious schools in the eastern Cape accepted Xhosa children who applied for admission, and in Natal many other Nguni-speaking groups sent their children to mission schools after the mid-nineteenth century. The government also financed teacher training classes for Africans as part of its pacification campaign throughout the nineteenth century.

By 1877 some 60 percent of school-age children in Natal were enrolled in school, as were 49 percent in the Cape Colony. In the Afrikaner republics, however, enrollments remained low--only 12 percent in the Orange Free State and 8 percent in the Transvaal--primarily the result of Afrikaner resistance to British education. Enrollments in these republics increased toward the end of the century, after the government agreed to the use of Afrikaans in the schools and to allow Afrikaner parents greater control over primary and secondary education.

By the late nineteenth century, three types of schools were receiving government assistance--ward schools, or small rural schools generally employing one teacher; district schools, providing primary-level education to several towns in an area; and a few secondary schools in larger cities. But during the last decades of that century, all four provinces virtually abolished African enrollment in government schools. African children attended mission schools, for the most part, and were taught by clergy or by lay teachers, sometimes with government assistance.

Higher education was generally reserved for those who could travel to Europe, but in 1829 the government established the multiracial South African College, which later became the University of Cape Town. Religious seminaries accepted a few African applicants as early as 1841. In 1852 British officials in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State acknowledged the right of Afrikaners to establish their own institutions of higher learning, and based on this understanding, Britain's incoming governor -Sir George Grey- allocated small sums of money to help fund Afrikaner institutions. The government established Grey College--later the University of the Orange Free State- in Bloemfontein in 1855 and placed it under the supervision of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Grey Institute was established in Port Elizabeth in 1856; Graaff-Reinet College was founded in 1860. The Christian College was founded at Potchefstroom in 1869 and was later incorporated into the University of South Africa and renamed the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.

Independence to Apartheid

Following the British victory in the South African War, the new representative of the Crown, Sir Alfred Milner, brought thousands of teachers from Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to instill the English language and British cultural values, especially in the two former Afrikaner republics. To counter the British influence, a group of Afrikaner churches proposed an education program, Christian National Education, to serve as the core of the school curriculum. The government initially refused to fund schools adopting this program, but Jan C. Smuts, the Transvaal leader who later became prime minister, was strongly committed to reconciliation between Afrikaners and English speakers, and he favored local control over many aspects of education. Provincial autonomy in education was strengthened in the early twentieth century, and all four provincial governments used government funds primarily to educate whites.

The National Party (NP) was able to capitalize on the fear of racial integration in the schools to build its support. The NP's narrow election victory in 1948 gave Afrikaans new standing in the schools, and after that, all high-school graduates were required to be proficient in both Afrikaans and English. The NP government also reintroduced Christian National Education as the guiding philosophy of education.

Education under Apartheid

The Bantu Education Act

The Bantu Education Act (No. 47) of 1953 widened the gaps in educational opportunities for different racial groups. Two of the architects of Bantu education, Dr. W.M. Eiselen and Dr. Hendrik F. Verwoerd, had studied in Germany and had adopted many elements of National Socialist (Nazi) philosophy. The concept of racial "purity," in particular, provided a rationalization for keeping black education inferior. Verwoerd, then minister of native affairs, said black Africans "should be educated for their opportunities in life," and that there was no place for them "above the level of certain forms of labour." The government also tightened its control over religious high schools by eliminating almost all financial aid, forcing many churches to sell their schools to the government or close them entirely.

Christian National Education supported the NP program of apartheid by calling on educators to reinforce cultural diversity and to rely on "mother-tongue" instruction in the first years of primary school. This philosophy also espoused the idea that a person's social responsibilities and political opportunities are defined, in large part, by that person's ethnic identity. The government also gave strong management control to the school boards, who were elected by the parents in each district.

Official attitudes toward African education were paternalistic, based on trusteeship and segregation. Black education was not supposed to drain government resources away from white education. The number of schools for blacks increased during the 1960s, but their curriculum was designed to prepare children for menial jobs. Per-capita government spending on black education slipped to one-tenth of spending on whites in the 1970s. Black schools had inferior facilities, teachers, and textbooks.

Soweto and Its Aftermath

Soweto and its Aftermath

Tensions over language in education erupted into violence on June 16, 1976, when students took to the streets in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. Their action was prompted by the decision of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu education system, to enforce a regulation requiring that one-half of all high-school classes must be taught in Afrikaans. A harsh police response resulted in the deaths of several children, some as young as eight or nine years old. In the violence that followed, more than 575 people died, at least 134 of them under the age of eighteen.

Youthful ANC supporters abandoned school in droves; some vowed to "make South Africa ungovernable" to protest against apartheid education. Others left the country for military training camps run by the ANC or other liberation armies, mostly in Angola, Tanzania, or Eastern Europe. "Liberation before education" became their battle cry.

The schools suffered further damage as a result of the unrest of 1976. Vandals and arsonists damaged or destroyed many schools and school property. Students, who tried to attend school, and their teachers were sometimes attacked, and administrators found it increasingly difficult to maintain normal school activities. Some teachers and administrators joined in the protests.

The National Policy for General Affairs Act (No. 76) of 1984 provided some improvements in black education but maintained the overall separation called for by the Bantu education system. This act gave the minister of national education authority to determine general policy for syllabuses, examinations, and certification qualifications in all institutions of formal and informal education. But responsibility for implementing these policies was divided among numerous government departments and offices, resulting in a bewildering array of educational authorities: For example, the Department of Education and Training was responsible for black education outside the homelands. Each of the three houses of parliament--for whites, coloureds, and Indians--had an education department for one racial group, and each of the ten homelands had its own education department. In addition, several other government departments managed specific aspects of education.

Education was compulsory for all racial groups, but at different ages, and the law was enforced differently. Whites were required to attend school between the ages of seven and sixteen. Black children were required to attend school from age seven until the equivalent of seventh grade or the age of sixteen, but this law was enforced only weakly, and not at all in areas where schools were unavailable. For Asians and coloured children, education was compulsory between the ages of seven and fifteen.

The discrepancies in education among racial groups were glaring. Teacher: pupil ratios in primary schools averaged 1:18 in white schools, 1:24 in Asian schools, 1:27 in coloured schools, and 1:39 in black schools. Moreover, whereas 96 percent of all teachers in white schools had teaching certificates, only 15 percent of teachers in black schools were certified. Secondary-school pass rates for black pupils in the nationwide, standardized high-school graduation exams were less than one-half the pass rate for whites.

As the government implemented the 1984 legislation, new violence flared up in response to the limited constitutional reforms that continued to exclude blacks. Finally, the government began to signal its awareness that apartheid could not endure. By 1986 President P.W. Botha (1984-89) had stated that the concept of apartheid was "outdated," and behind-the-scenes negotiations had begun between government officials and imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela. The gap between government spending on education for different racial groups slowly began to narrow, and penalties for defying apartheid rules in education began to ease.


The apartheid regime created different universities for different race groups, often in close proximity and offering the same courses, but neglected the development of historically black institutions. In a country with scarce resources, with institutions of uneven capacity, there was an urgent need to cut down on costly duplication and improve quality across the sector.

After several years of investigation and consultation, the government announced plans to radically restructure higher education through mergers and incorporations that was completed by January 2005 and created 22 institutions out of an existing 36 universities and technikons. Out of the 36 institutions 22 were selected for mergers, four for major incorporations (or loss of facilities), one was being dismantled and its multi-sites slotted into other institutions, and there are 10 new university names.

In South Africa, education plays a huge role compared to other countries. The government usually spends 20% of their expenditure on education. Black Africans were perceived to have the role of labourers and servants. During the 1980s the young population was committed to destroying the education system, due to the apartheid. There were strikes and violence which firmly restricted its ability to function in an orderly manner. Even though the government spends 20% annually on education the apartheid theory still sticks around.

Among the South African population, only 14% of blacks have an education of high school or higher, whereas 40% of Indians and 65% of Whites have an education of  high school or higher.
Among the South African population, only 14% of blacks have an education of high school or higher, whereas 40% of Indians and 65% of Whites have an education of  high school or higher.

Technology has become an increasingly important component, especially in the Western Cape and Gauteng. Khanya has led the way in bringing the formerly disadvantaged schools into the global classroom, sometimes with the support of the UK based, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

In South Africa, you can find the concept of public and private school which vary according to character, size, quality of education, and financial advantages. With both public and private intuitions, the education in South Africa is very promising. Most of the schools are supported by the state, but private schooling is also widely common. 2.8% of the total school population is private equalling 340,000 students. Today the literacy rate is 86%.
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