Democracy has paved the way for access to education for all

Monday, January 15, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that as the nation commemorates 30 years of democracy, South Africa has made strides in “advancing access to education” for previously marginalised groups.

He made this assertion in his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday.

South Africa will celebrate 30 years of democracy this year as the country’s first democratic election was held in April 1994 – marking an end to the racist apartheid regime.

“We must consider just how far we have come from an era where the educational prospects of young black men and women were greatly diminished, and where the inferior education they received was deliberately designed to prepare them to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.

“Much has changed. From the results of Census 2022, we can glean insight into the gains we have made as a country in advancing access to education, the most critical area of any nation’s development,” the President said.

Census 2022, according to the Presidency, was the fourth population and housing count in post-apartheid South Africa, with the first conducted in 1996, with subsequent censuses being conducted in 2001 and 2011.

Pressing further on the results of Census 2022, the President added that at least three quarters of youth aged between five and 24 are attending school with the “percentage of people aged 20 and older who have completed secondary education” doubling since the first democratic Census in 1996.

“The first census showed that some 62% of white South Africans had a matric or higher qualification compared to 18% of blacks. Today, 38% of all South Africans have completed secondary education.

“At the time Census 1996 was conducted, 1.5 million South Africans had post-school qualifications. In 2022, this figure stood at approximately 4.6 million. Much of this progress has been made possible by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which continues to play an invaluable role in supporting access to higher education,” President Ramaphosa said.

Expanding access to education

He acknowledged that the education sector is facing challenges “as it works to meet the needs of our growing population [and] we are working to overcome them”.

“However, given our country’s history of marginalisation and exclusion, that we have made such substantial progress in expanding access to education over the past three decades is significant.

“In South Africa today, basic and higher education is accessible to the children and grandchildren of farmworkers, mineworkers and domestic workers, many of whom were denied such opportunities in the not-too-distant apartheid past. We will continue to build on our gains in our quest to leave no-one behind.”

Matric results

President Ramaphosa highlighted that matric results over the past few years has recorded the strides that young females are now making.

“In 2022, the matric cohort achieved an 80.1% pass rate, and last year more than a million candidates sat for the exam. More than half of the successful matriculants were female. There are also more women studying at tertiary institutions in South Africa, including in the once male-dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“While the task of ensuring that our economy grows at a scale and pace to absorb graduates and those seeking formal employment is a daunting one, let us not lose sight of how far we have come in this critical developmental indicator.

“We wish the matriculants eagerly awaiting their results later this week good luck. We have no doubt they will make us proud, making it an auspicious start to an auspicious year,” President Ramaphosa concluded. –