The Education for All and Millennium Development Goals commit national governments, international agencies and civil society to ensure that all children are provided with basic education. In South Africa this would mean full attendance in Grades (1-9). The achievement of universal primary education and gender equity across low-income countries are seen as critical to efforts to reduce poverty, increase equity and transform the developmental prospects of all people. South Africa has committed itself to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals premised on the right to basic education for all which is enshrined in its Constitution. However, unlike a number of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has near universal access to formal public schooling up to the end of the compulsory phase: this phase comprises of the foundation phase (Grades 1-3); the intermediate phase (Grades 4-6); and the junior secondary phase (Grades 7-9) - a total of 9 years of schooling. However, substantial infrastructural backlogs deprive learners of equal opportunities to quality education. Expanded access has little import unless it includes regular attendance, enables progression through grades at appropriate ages, and provides meaningful learning, achievement and completion. Using quantitative empirical data from two districts in two different provinces in South Africa, this article reviews patterns of participation. It pays particular attention to dropout, age-grade progression and repetition in understanding the dynamics of access. The article concludes that access must be more than just a place in a school for every child; it must be meaningful access.
Motala, S.; Veerle Dieltiens; Yusuf Sayed. Physical access to schooling in South Africa: mapping dropout, repetition and age-grade progression in two districts. Comparative Education (2009) 45 (2) 251-263. [DOI: 10.1080/03050060902920948]