I think one of the most facinating things about this trip will be seeing students and education in an entirely new way. I've been reading about school in South Africa and it's pretty interesting. Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from age 7 (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9.
The matric (grade 12) pass rate, which was as low as 40% in the late 1990s, continues to improve each year, reaching 68.3% in 2005.
However, this statistic is a little deceiving and many students never make it to grade 12. Sadly, In 2008, only 36% of grade 11 pupils went on to complete their grade 12 (matric) year. Most students dropped out due to either failing their grade 11 year, or not being able to pay their school fees any longer.**
Although today's government is working to rectify the imbalances in education, the apartheid legacy remains. Illiteracy rates are high at around 24% of adults over 15 years old (6- to 8-million adults are not functionally literate), teachers in township schools are poorly trained, and the matric pass rate remains low.
While 65% of whites over 20 years old and 40% of Indians have a high school or higher qualification, this figure is only 14% among blacks and 17% among the coloured population.
The government is in particular targeting education for the poorest of the poor, with two notable programmes. One is fee-free schools, institutions that receive all their required funding from the state and so do not have to charge school fees. These have been carefully identified in the country's most poverty-stricken areas, and will make up 40% of all schools in 2007.
The other is the National Schools Nutrition Programme, which feeds 1.6-million school children every day, including all those attending primary schools in 13 rural and eight urban poverty nodes.
Other priorities include early childhood development, HIV-Aids awareness programmes in schools, and adult basic education and training.
While many of South Africa's universities are world-class academic institutions, for many students the road to higher education isn't a given in the same way it is for so many of my students.
I don't expect to change the world in a month. I don't even expect to really impact it in any noticeable way. But each drop in the bucket adds up. I hope my month in South Africa helps, even if only a little.
**This information is taken from http://therockstarfoundation.org/
*All other information regarding South Africa's schooling is taken directly from www.southafrica.info