Free Primary Education Still Out of Reach in South Africa

13 April 2017

Two years ago, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which states that primary education should be free and compulsory for all, came into force in South Africa. The Covenant requires governments that do not already provide free primary education to at least have a proper action plan in place to make primary education free to all children.

But the government has yet to fulfil this basic obligation. In South Africa, public schools are not automatically free of charge. While many are «no fee» schools, no special schools — where most children with disabilities are erroneously sent to — fall into that category. So, while most primary school age children do not pay fees, those with disabilities often do. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities in South Africa are still not in school.

The current fee-based system particularly discriminates against students with disabilities. Not only do children who attend special schools have to pay fees when others don’t, they also have to shoulder additional costs, such as uniforms, food, transport, and special assistants to help them. Fees in special schools typically range from R350-R750 (US$32-$68) per term.

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Photo: Human Rights Watch

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