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Time for a Right to Read in South Africa?

South Africa’s public education system is repeatedly and consistently described as being in a “state of crisis”, ineffective, tragically unequal, and not fit for purpose.  For 80% of the school-going population who attend no fee schools, it is all too common for there to be overcrowded classrooms, crumbling or non-existent toilets, poor teacher content knowledge, vacant teacher posts, and shortages of textbooks and learner support material.  Considering the very shaky inputs, it’s not surprising then to learn that year after year the school dropout rate is counted in the tens of thousands. Only 60% of learners beginning school in grade 1 manage to write their school leaving matric exams, only 37% pass, and a paltry 12% will access university.  The vast majority of those learners that do complete their schooling come from fee-paying schools.  This is a serious indictment of the system, particularly when one considers that South Africa’s expenditure on education (6% of GDP) is very substantial.