“Regardless of how we measure it, school segregation in post-apartheid South Africa remains very high racially, as well as socio-economically, and also from an international comparative perspective,” said Dr. Rob Gruijters, Assistant Professor in the University’s Faculty of Education. University of Cambridge, during an online seminar on school segregation in post-apartheid South Africa on Monday.
Gruijters, one of the authors of an unpublished preliminary study, joined research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and co-author of the study, Dr Vijay Reddy, and Professor d education at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor Jonathan Jansen, to discuss the results.
The study examines patterns of school segregation using data from the Ministry of Basic Education’s 2021 Annual Schools Survey and data from the 2019 International Mathematics and Science Trends Study ( TIMSS). Based on the findings, Gruijters and Reddy argued that “the political settlement that emerged around South Africa’s democratic transition facilitated the hoarding of educational opportunities by the white minority and other socio-economically favoured”.
Gruijters explained that the research found that while “many, but not all, former white schools are now racially diverse to varying degrees, they are not representative of the population – primarily because white students remain overrepresented in these schools. and black children, in particular, remain underrepresented in the best schools in the country.”
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Research showed that in 2021, the average white student attended a school that was 68.5% white, 3.3% Indian, 8.5% colored and 19.6% black.
“White students attended schools that were 68.5% white, even though white students made up only 3.8% of the total population of children attending school in 2021,” Gruijters said.
Conversely, the average black student attended a school that was 0.9% white, 0.7% Indian, 2.0% colored, and 96.4% black in 2021.
“The vast majority of black students’ classmates were also black, and that’s not surprising given that black students make up a large majority of the school-aged population,” Gruijters said.
Likewise, research indicates that Indian students and students of color are fairly heavily exposed to other Indian and students of color, “so these numbers indicate fairly high levels of segregation,” Gruijters added.
Additionally, the former white schools now admit 54.4% black learners, while 29.4% of learners in these schools are white, 12.5% are colored and 3.6% are Indian.
“Although many former white schools now admit learners from other groups, there are many variations between schools in the number of black learners admitted,” Gruijters said.
However, very few white children attend former black, Indian or colored schools.
Formerly, black schools – the majority of all schools – remain almost exclusively black – “one of the main reasons for this is that many of these schools are located in townships and rural areas where there is very little racial diversity” , said Gruijters.
Gruijters said research indicates that many South African schools may be racially diverse, but not integrated; they are not representative of the population.
“Former white schools are, on average, the most racially diverse, but they also contribute the most to segregation, as white and Indian children remain heavily overrepresented in these schools, relative to their share of the population” , did he declare.
In the study, researchers also looked at the demographic composition of the 30 most elite public schools and the 30 most elite private schools in South Africa, based on their tuition fees in 2021.
According to Gruijters, research indicates that most of these elite public and private schools remain “white-dominated.”
“It is immediately clear that there are only a very small number of elite schools where black learners constitute the majority – in most schools they constitute a relatively small minority of the student body,” said he declared.
Research shows that white students – who make up 3.8% of the total population of children attending school in 2021 – hold 62% of seats in elite public schools and 55% of seats in private schools elite.
Indian students (1.5% of the population) are also overrepresented in public schools (6%) and elite private schools (13%).
“However, black students, who make up 87.2% of the population, remain grossly underrepresented in elite schools, holding only 20% of seats in elite public schools and 27% of seats in elite private schools (27%),,” Gruijters said.
Previous research has shown that integration into former white schools in South Africa is often limited to the more socio-economically advantaged children of other racial groups, according to Gruijters.
With this in mind, the HSRC study found that when white students are exposed to black classmates, they are typically from the most socioeconomically advantaged backgrounds.
The research also revealed that South Africa ranks highly in terms of socio-economic segregation between schools.
“In fact, South Africa has the second highest level of socio-economic segregation between schools among the 41 TIMSS countries, surpassed only by Turkey,” Gruijters said. DM