Johannesburg - The apartheid regime disadvantaged the country and economy by denying black people an education, President Jacob Zuma told a crowd of supporters at a Youth Day celebration held at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
"By denying the majority of the population quality education, the apartheid regime disadvantaged the country and the South African economy immensely," he said.
"Given the usage of education as an instrument of subjugation by the apartheid regime, the democratic government decided to make education an instrument of liberation."
Zuma said education was an apex priority for the current government which is why it received the biggest chunk of the national budget.
Built new schools
He said government had built new schools and refurbished others to improve the learning environment.
"Government has built 795 schools since 2009, at a cost of R23 billion. We have built 78 new libraries in addition to 304 that have been upgraded. To improve access to education, at least 80% of our public schools are now no-fee schools and nine million children are exempted from paying school fees," he said.
Zuma said in that way the country was making progress on free basic education for the poor and the working class.
He said poverty should not prevent a child from obtaining an education.
"Nine million children also receive free meals at school, as hunger must not prevent children from poor households from performing at their optimal level in school," he said.