In South Africa, the school year runs from January until December. Grade 12 schoolchildren write their final exams near the end of the year, but have to wait for their results to come out in early January in the following year. It’s a stressful time as they wait to see how they performed.
At the same time, there is also a flurry of annual media coverage around the national pass rate and South Africa’s many challenges within the basic education system.
Given the country’s apartheid history, equitable funding of public schools has been a priority in the new democratic dispensation. Government has been working to reduce the historical racial disparities in education.
During apartheid, the government spent anywhere between four and 12 times the amount per white child as per black child, as well as segregating people by race geographically, meaning that schools in black areas were extremely under-resourced. This has had far-reaching consequences and even today the disparities persist.
The Quintile Ranking System
One of the ways the government has been working to fix this is through trying to distribute educational funding more fairly. To do this, it ranks all public schools (as opposed to independently run schools, which are funded by the private sector) from Quintile 1 to Quintile 5, based on the unemployment rate and literacy rate of the community in which the school is located.
Quintile 1 and 2 schools are the poorest, while Quintile 5 schools are the wealthiest. The government thus allocates more resources and funding to lower quintile schools.
Schools in Quintile 1 and 2 are “no-fee schools” – they are not allowed to charge school fees and children attend free of charge. Quintile 3 schools can also be declared no-fee on application, whereas schools in Quintiles 4 and 5 are fee-charging schools. While they receive government subsidies, school fees are paid by the families of children attending them.
Funding allocation per child per year:
Schools Qhubeka Works With
Of the 27 schools Qhubeka partnered with in 2019, 24 are in Quintiles 1 to 3 (89%), and 3 schools (11%) are in Quintile 4.
The Quintile 4 schools we partner with still meet Qhubeka’s own criteria, which are based on need (how easy is it for children attending to get to and from school). This is because many schoolchildren in South Africa have to travel from the communities in which they live to another community that has a school in it. For example, while some of these children may only be able to attend a Quintile 3 school, they might be living in a community that would be ranked within the first or second quintiles by unemployment and literacy levels.
South Africa’s Missing Schoolchildren
While approximately 1.12 million children started Grade 1 in 2008 in South Africa, only 410 000 of those children passed Grade 12 in 2019. This is one of the reasons we believe improving access to schools is critical. Helping children get to and from school more easily is one factor that can help keep them in school.
Good News Travels on Two Wheels
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom! South Africa’s national pass rate increased by 3.1% from 2018 to 2019.
While the overall pass rate in national schools was 81.3%, the average in the 27 schools we worked with was 81.7%.
Best of all, one of our schools, Maqoqa Secondary School, achieved a 100% pass rate. It was the first school we filled to 100 % with bicycles (i.e. every child attending received a Qhubeka bicycle).
Of the six schools we filled 100% with bicycles in 2019, five were in the top 10 performing Qhubeka schools. The top 10 Qhubeka Schools had an average pass rate of 93%.
Bicycles are Part of the Solution
While there’s no quick fix to solve all the challenges in the South African education system, we’ve seen how bicycles can help. With a bicycle, a child can travel to school up to four times faster than walking, and carry five times more. Having a bicycle also often means that money that was being spent on public transport to and from school can be reprioritised to cover other necessities, like food, healthcare and school supplies.
Thank you for being part of the solution. Together we can change more lives with bicycles.