Parents losing faith in public schools
Johannesburg - The number of pupils attending private schools, once dubbed "bastions of class inequality", increased by 50% between 2000 and 2009, a study released by the SA Institute of Relations said.
Public schools only showed a 1.6% increase over the same period.
"In 2000 the number of pupils attending independent schools was 256 283. This increased to 386 098 in 2009," the study, released on Tuesday, found.
This compared with 11.6 million pupils attending public schools in 2000 and 11.8 million in 2009, according to department of basic education data. The biggest decline in the number of pupils attending public schools was in the North West with a 15% drop.
The Northern Cape showed the greatest growth in the number of pupils attending public schools during that period with an increase of 35%, but off a low base.
All provinces except the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal saw increases in the number of pupils attending independent schools.
In the Free State the number of pupils at independent schools dropped by 27%.
In KwaZulu-Natal the decline was a "negligible" 0.2%.
In the Eastern Cape the number of pupils attending independent schools increased by 422%.
Researcher Marius Roodt attributed the growth at private schools to parents losing faith in the public school system.
But, he pointed out that the independent schools sector was still quite small in comparison with the public school system so the figures were off a small base.
The matric pass rate for public schools for 2010 was 67.8% and the pass rate for independent schools was 98%.
In December Congress of SA Trade Unions secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi urged the Young Communist League to continue its campaign against "elitist" private schools, calling them the "bastions of class inequality" as he lamented the difficulties pupils at many disadvantaged schools faced.
Many parents scrimp to send their children to private schools, fearing public schools would be affected by disruptions as a result of strikes, such as the protracted public servants' strike in 2010.