Universal bursaries will ‘eliminate bad schools’, close education gap

2014-09-09 14:20

The South African Institute of Race Relations has called for the government to introduce a “universal bursary” system in the form of an annual R12 000 for all pupils in all schools.

Such vouchers, said the Institute of Race Relations, would be used solely for educational purposes.

“The current amount of R180 billion that the state spends each year on paying teachers and running schools should be redirected to parents in the form of vouchers worth about R12 000 each. This is the current level of per capita state spending on schooling,” said Institute of Race Relations representative John Kane-Berman today.

The voucher, he said, would be distributed in the form of smart cards at filling stations, national retail chains, mobile phone outlets, or any other existing national network on presentation of proof of parents and children’s identity.

Kane-Berman said: “This would enable parents to buy schooling wherever they choose. More and more parents are already trying to avoid dysfunctional state schools as shown by the growing number of private or independent schools in South Africa, including schools run as businesses.”

South Africa is fortunate that it has some excellent state schools to which very large numbers of township children are commuting on a daily basis, he said.

The proposed system could provide all families with choices available to a select few.

“They would be a big step towards equality of opportunity and broad-based empowerment.”

The critical idea is to introduce competition throughout the education system because schools will have to compete for voucher-bearing customers in the form of pupils, said Kane-Berman, adding that schools unable to attract or retain pupils will have to close, which will ensure that schools are run in the interests of pupils instead of teachers.

He said such a system is already operating in many countries across the world.

“They are particularly popular among black families in the United States. This is because they enable black parents to buy their way out of bad government schools in the inner cities and put their children into better schools in the suburbs.”

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