2022 Census: Damning findings for South African education

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released on Tuesday the results of the much-anticipated 2022 national census (PDF), describing that the South African population has grown to 62 million people. The census has also detailed a host of other important information that the government can use to properly plan for the future of the country, as well as see the state of the social development of the nation.

One key highlight in the census is that as of 2022, 5.26 million young South Africans, aged 5 to 24, are not attending any schooling.

Compared to the last census in 2011, this is an increase of around 200 000. Since 1996, each census has found that around 5 million people in the age group were not attending any schooling. The fact that this statistic has remained relatively the same in the last 26 years is damning for the state of the Department of Basic Education.

Minute change over 26 years

In terms of how many young people are actually going to school, the census found that 14.5 million people are attending schooling in some form as of 2022. The most ever, according to data from the previous three censuses. The difference however is not by much.

Stats SA indicates that the overall percentage of young people that are going to school increased from 70.1 percent in 1996 to 73.4 percent in 2022.

For those paying attention, this is a 3.3 percent increase in attendance in 26 years, meanwhile the population has grown from 40 million in 1996 to 62 million as of last year.

Of those not attending, the Black African ethnic group represented the most young people who don’t go to school. However, this could be explained as the ethnic group represents the vast majority of South Africans. Proportionally it is the Coloured ethnic group that has the highest percentage of people who don’t attend schooling.

The White ethnic group has the lowest percentage of those not getting an education, however it is only a 3 percent difference from the Black African group.

Overall, more people are not attending school in 2022 than they were in 1996, from 5.01 million to 5.26 million.

Around 245 939 more people are effectively growing up without an education today than two years after the collapse of apartheid despite advances in technology, an increase in schools being built and a R27 billion budget allocated to the Department of Basic Education in 2022, whose purview encompasses grades 1 to 12.

This shows that the government has failed to adequately prepare the education landscape for the growth in population experienced over the last quarter century.

High school graduations have increased says 2022 census

Across South Africa, only 37.6 percent of the population over the age of 20 have completed high school as of 2022. Only 12.2 percent have some form of tertiary education.

Nearly 7 percent of the population over 20 have no formal education at all. The number of persons aged 20 or above that have no schooling reduced from 4 million in 1996 to 2.6 million in 2022.

“South Africa has geared up to intensify its measures through policy reforms to tackle school dropouts and increase completion of secondary schooling. Post-apartheid South Africa has experienced an expansion in the completion of secondary schooling for previously disadvantaged population groups. However, race disparity in educational attainment intersects with other forms of disadvantage, including poverty and the urban-rural divide,” explains Stats SA.

In the last 26 years, there has been a notable increase in the number of people completing the high school phase (16,3 percent in 1996 to 37,6 percent in 2022) and tertiary education (7,1 percent in 1996 to 12,2 percent in 2022), reflecting the government’s concerted efforts in decreases school dropouts and promoting higher education.

In terms of what people are studying when they get to university, the census found that females dominate in fields such as business, economics and education, while makes dominate in engineering and electrical infrastructure studies.

Is enough being done?

The theme of education in the 2022 census paints a picture of slow positive change, but after nearly 30 years merely a step in the right direction is not nearly enough. A 3.3 percent increase in the number of South Africans getting any education in a quarter of a century is problematic seeing as schooling is considered a basic human right.

Low school attendance is an issue across the continent. Specifically, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of school attendance globally. The most rural and remote areas of the country suffer the worst rate of young people simply not going to school, which is compounded by a high rate of dropping out.

And yet, the government is closing schools in KwaZulu-Natal because not enough children are attending, and reading rates remain low compared to international standards.

Negative socio-economic factors continue to be a barrier for young people who may want to become educated, but with all the resources pumped into the education landscape is there not much more that can be done?

[Image – Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash]


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