Government spent R31.8 billion on education in 1994. In 2016 this figure had grown to R297.5 billion. On average, education receives 33% of provincial government expenditure and has received more than 40% of CSI spend since 2012. Despite considerable investment in this sector, challenges regarding the quality of and access to education persist.

Overview of CSI spend on education

Education was supported by 94% of companies and received 48% of CSI expenditure in 2016.



Guidelines for effective funding

  • Investment in education should take government priorities into consideration, and aim to support systemic interventions and pilot innovations.
  • Funders should decide whether to interact directly with the formal education system (e.g. public schools), non-profit or community-based organisations which may deal with state structures.
  • The overall impact of the investment in education will be heavily influenced by the school or institution functionality, which in turn is determined by factors such as governance, teacher competence and regional support systems. Research shows that selecting schools or institutions with some level of functionality and good leadership significantly improves the chances of positive outcomes.
  • It is important that education programmes are combined with social development and other community outreach efforts to address psychosocial issues that impact education outcomes.
  • While there are no fool-proof solutions in the education system, experience shows that sustained and integrated projects that focus on one specific area over prolonged periods of time have a deeper and more lasting impact.
  • Literacy interventions at the foundation phase have been shown to have a particularly positive long-term impact on academic performance. Research also indicates that the outcomes of maths and science programmes can be enhanced by including literacy skills.
  • Long-term teacher development initiatives that improve subject knowledge and teaching methods should be integrated into school-based interventions wherever possible.
  • Studies have proven that investment in infrastructure, facilities and resources can have a positive effect when combined with interventions to improve teaching and school management.

Big picture figures

  • Government’s budget for basic education increased from R191.1 billion in 2015 to R205.8 billion in 2016.
  • University subsidies increased by 7%, from R26.2 billion in 2015 to R28 billion in 2016.
  • According to Statistics South Africa, enrolment rates for five-year-olds have quadrupled over the last two decades, from 23% in 1996 to 91% in 2016. Enrolment rates among six-year-olds nearly doubled over the same period, from 49% to 96%.
  • In 2013, the Minister of Basic Education reported that South Africa had the highest teacher absenteeism rate of all SADC countries, with about 10% of teachers absent for an average of 19 days annually.
  • The National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) June 2016 report shows that 59% of ordinary schools do not have computer centres and 71% do not have libraries.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015–2016 ranked South Africa 138th out of 140 countries for the quality of its overall education, and last for the quality of maths and science education. 
  • The 2015 National Senior Certificate overall pass rate of 71% represents a decrease from the 2014 pass rate of 76%.
  • According to Equal Education, a non-profit organisation that works to improve the quality and equality of South Africa’s education system, only about half of learners enrolled in grade two reach matric. Most learners drop out of the school system between grades 10 and 12.
  • The director of The Academic Development Centre at the University of Johannesburg reports that between 50 – 60% of students at higher learning institutions drop out during their first academic year.
  • In September 2016, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said that the cost of destruction to property, as a result of student unrest, had reached R600 million.