Thursday, September 09, 2010

Moving away from public schools in South Africa

The post-apartheid generation of South Africa has seen a massive failure of the nation's schools. Leaving those from black or rural neighborhoods uneducated and unable to take advantage of their new freedoms.

The poor schools are leading some parents to take it upon themselves to put their children in private schools. Many of the new private or sponsored schools come with unique ideas in education similar to some of the US charter schools.

From the New York Times, writer Celia Dugger gives us some examples of new methods of education South Africa.

As many of South Africa’s public schools have failed a post-apartheid generation of children from poor townships and rural areas, a budding movement of educators, philanthropists and desperate parents is increasingly searching for alternatives.

For a decade, banks and foundations here have sponsored promising township students to attend elite, mostly white schools. But now new private schools are springing up to serve poor and working-class black children, giving the still dominant public system some newfound competition and perhaps even devising models that will end up influencing it.

The 500 students at three schools known as Leap represent one approach. All of the students, including Gcobani, come from black townships. They are immersed in an educational environment that is reminiscent of some of the most successful American charter schools.

In another undertaking, civic leaders are trying to revive the rural mission schools that educated many of South Africa’s liberation heroes but were largely destroyed by apartheid-era laws that required the institutions to submit to a racist system’s dictates or surrender control to the state. Nelson Mandela’s alma mater, Healdtown, and the Inanda Seminary, South Africa’s first high school for African girls, founded by American missionaries in 1869, are among those to be restored.

And in a small platinum-rich dominion near Johannesburg, the king of the Bafokeng people, Leruo Tshekedi Molotlegi, has built a $72 million private school for 800 children, most of whom will be local boys and girls on scholarship.

But a growing number of families, even without philanthropic support and tired of what they see as unmotivated public school teachers, are scraping together money on their own to send their children to bare-bones private schools tucked away in abandoned factories, shopping centers, shacks and high-rises, a new study of rural and urban communities in three provinces found.

In fact, researchers discovered far more of these low-fee private schools than official statistics suggest and surprisingly noted that public school teachers dissatisfied with their own workplaces were among the parents of students in these schools. While national studies are needed to gauge the full scope of the phenomenon, the researchers said, the evidence suggests that such schools are increasingly popular.

“Some ask, ‘Why aren’t parents screaming about the appalling state of public education?’ ” said Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Johannesburg-based Center for Development and Enterprise, which conducted the study. “They’re moving with their feet.”

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