98% of South African children attend school and other facts about access to education from the 2018 Child Gauge report

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In 2016 only "51% of young people aged 20 – 24 had completed a matric or matric equivalent."
In 2016 only "51% of young people aged 20 – 24 had completed a matric or matric equivalent."

Each year, the University of Cape Town's Children's Institute reveals the lived reality of the nearly 20 million children who call South Africa home and the family circumstances that create their experiences. 

In its entirety, the Child Gauge report covers everything from the laws that guard children's rights to the diverse structure of South African families. 

Children’s access to education is a significantly covered topic, looking at overall school attendance and progress, early childhood development (ECD) programmes, the distance SA kids are travelling to school, and those not enrolled in school. 

Here's a look at what the 2018 Child Gauge report found. 


Does the report represent your experiences? Tell us your opinion by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous. 

National school attendance stands at 98% 

According to the Children's Institute, 11.2 million South African children between the ages of 7 and 17 were found to have "attended some form of educational facility in 2017."

This makes up 98% of the country's children. 

In 2002, this figure stood at 95%, with the most significant growth in school attendance seen in the Northern Cape (up from 91% to 95%) and KwaZulu-Natal (up from 93% to 98%). 

However, the report notes that beyond the compulsory school-going age of 15, the drop-out rate is problematic, with the lowest attendance rate – 82% – among 18-year-olds. 

Lack of finance was the number one reason for non-attendance for all children of school-going age. 

Here are the factors for kids not attending school:

Early childhood development (ECD) programmes

Attendance among children in the preschool age group has doubled since 2002, with the report showing that 92% (2 million) of 5- to 6-year-olds are attending Grade R or Grade 1. 

Provinces with the highest and lowest rates of ECD attendance: 

Distance travelled to school 

Noted as one of the key barriers to education, the report showed how distance can impact a learner's attendance in school. 

Identifying modes of transport, researchers found that for a large majority of learners (66%), walking was the most common way of getting to school. 

Other forms of travel include: 

The report also revealed that while 85% of learners across South Africa took less than 30 minutes to get to school each day, 13% travelled more than 30 minutes to school daily. This figure was higher in KwaZulu-Natal where the journey to school is more than half an hour for 20% of learners. 

The report found that children aged 14 to 17 are more likely to travel further than those aged 7 to 13. 

Progress from grade to grade 

Figures reflecting progress throughout the final grades are not as promising as the increase in attendance for ages 7 to 17. The report notes that in 2016 only "51% of young people aged 20 to 24 had completed a matric or matric equivalent." 

Additional data from the report shows that in 2017: 

  • 89% of learners aged 10 to 11 completed  grade 3 (up from 78% in 2002
  • 70% of learners aged 16 to 17 completed grade 9 (up from 50% in 2002)

    The 34% NEETs

    One of the saddest statistics noted in the Child Gauge is the increase in 15- to 24-year-olds who are neither educated nor employed, referred to in the report as NEETs. 

    Up from 2 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017, the number of NEETs is greater among young females (37%) compared to young males (31%). 

    Does the report represent your experiences? Tell us your opinion by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

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