Globally, South Africa spends one of the highest percentages of Gross Domestic Product (6 percent) on education. Despite significant government spending and charitable investments to reform South Africa’s public school system since the end of apartheid, overall student performance has declined. The traditional South African education system offers limited quality options for learners from poor communities and unequal access to quality instruction, which is reflected in learner results: only one of 18 learners ends up with a post-high school qualification and only a third of financial-aid students that gain access to university will graduate. Compounding this, there remains a large gap between employer expectations and education outcomes. This stems principally from the approach to education in schools and universities which largely overlooks the soft and hard skills required to do work in today’s professional world.
Despite these challenges, South Africa is an exciting and forward-looking country. A mix of factors create an environment ripe for scalable, sustainable solutions. A well-developed infrastructure and political system. Universal acceptance of the urgent need to improve education and employment outcomes from across all spheres of society. An openness to cross-sector collaboration. These factors combine together to create a unique opportunity to positively and sustainably influence the lives of children and youth living in poverty.