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Poverty, equity and access to education

Poverty, equity and access to education 

Veerle Dieltiens and Sarah Meny-Gibert

Wits Education Policy Unit and Social Surveys Africa 

2008 SACHES Annual Conference paper

Maputo, Mozambique

17-19 July 2008 


The commonly used explanation for school drop-out - that high costs in an environment of absolute poverty drives learners from school - is unsatisfactory in the South African context. South Africa has high Gross Enrolment Rates until the end of compulsory schooling yet large numbers of learners can be classified as poor. While poverty is certainly a major issue, we feel that poverty as a barrier to schooling has been simplistically used in the education literature. In this paper, we propose an expanded understanding of poverty as a barrier to access.  We argue that the absolute notion of poverty must be complemented with notions of social exclusion and capabilities to explain enrolment and drop out patterns in different phases of the schooling system in South Africa.   


Poverty is often given as an important reason for why learners drop-out of school.  Inability to pay school fees, the costs of uniform, shoes, transport, stationary, added to the opportunity costs of what children might be contributing to household labour, eat away at meagre resources and push children from school.  School fees have been singled out for blame as a particularly burdensome cost and organizations such as the Education Rights Project have been campaigning for their complete abolition (Roithmayr, 2002).  Fleisch and Woolman (2004), arguing that fees do not feature as a primary reason for drop-out, contend that absolute or "abject" poverty inhibits educational access where the full range of costs associated with attendance, particularly of uniforms and transport, are taken into account. 

The Department of Education has implemented a number of indigent policies in an attempt to surmount the inhibiting costs of accessing schools, most notably that of declaring schools in the bottom two quintiles fee-free.  Pro-poor financing policies redistribute government expenditure in favour of the poorest schools.  In addition, households whose monthly income is between 10 and 30 times the school fee (in quintiles 3 and 4) qualify for a full or partial fees exemption. Although such measures are important in easing entry to and progress through school, these policies only address the most obvious material constraints of school attendance. First, school fees comprise only a portion of access costs as Fleisch and Woolman (2004) point out, and second because poverty has a much more pernicious effect than indicators of absolute poverty reveal. 

Absolute poverty, which refers to households living below a minimum necessary to sustain subsistence, cannot explain South Africa's access or drop-out patterns.  On a conservative estimate of absolute poverty, 31.3% lived below the poverty line in 20071, yet South Africa's high Gross Enrolment Rate, 96% in the General Education and Training band (grades R-9) and 86% in the Further Education and Training band in 2006 (DoE, 2008, p.6), suggests that absolute poverty does not necessarily act as a barrier to schooling.  We suggest that first, if absolute poverty keeps children out of school, our enrolment rates should be lower than they are.  Second, there is evidence to suggest that in fact school may offer poor households additional resources in the form of child-care, some basic access to nutrition for young children and hope for a better future.  We argue in this paper that poverty matters, but not in the way it has commonly been understood in relation to access to education.  The concept of absolute poverty is insufficient on its own to explain patterns of access in South Africa.  

Most recent attempts at conceptualizing poverty have emphasized a multi-dimensional model which includes 'absolute' poverty at its core and expands to include opportunities to access good quality services as well as those indicators that point to a person��s ability to participate fully in South African society (Noble et al, 2007).  Redmond (2008) describes three approaches to understanding poverty: the economic welfare perspective, the capabilities approach and social exclusion.   

The economic welfare perspective is centrally concerned with alleviating absolute poverty by means of social sector spending.  Along with such inputs, the second two perspectives also take into account the outcomes of poverty.  While the social exclusion approach takes into account the relative perspective of inequalities that lead to exclusion, the capabilities approach focuses on whether individuals are able to convert their economic possessions into a life worth living.  Noble et al (2007) explain that "relative poverty specifically relates poverty to a reference group.  In its narrowest sense, poverty is conceptualized relative to national distribution of income/expenditure.  More broadly, relative poverty is conceptualized by reference to the general living standards of the society as a whole or in terms of resources required to participate fully in that society".   

In this paper, we argue that the three perspectives on poverty explain drop-out and vulnerability to drop-out in different phases of schooling.  The Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE), one of the projects for which this paper has been written, conceives of access in terms of a model that describes four zones of exclusion. Zone 1 includes children who have never gone to school. The second zone includes those who drop out before the end of primary education (Grade 7), and Zone 3 contains learners who are at risk of dropping out in this same period. Zone 4 contains those learners who drop-out of Grades 8 or 9, that is after the transition to secondary school (Lewin, 2007). 

We super-impose three perspectives on poverty onto the CREATE access model (Redmond, 2008).  We argue that while absolute poverty explains delays in entry to schools, the social exclusion theory provides the best explanation into why learners drop-out in the basic education phase. The capabilities approach provides clues into why learners drop-out after basic education.   

In making our case, the paper draws on secondary literature as well as empirical data collected for the formative research of the Barriers to Education Project, a joint initiative between Social Surveys Africa and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of Witwatersrand. The Barriers to Education Project involves a national household survey of over 4000 households across South Africa, the data for which will be released in early 2009. Social Surveys conducted qualitative formative research for the Project in 2007, which comprised focus group discussions with caregivers, youth and educators in four sites in Limpopo and Gauteng. Thembelihle (Lenasia, Johannesburg) and Diepkloof Extension (Soweto, Johannesburg) were chosen as urban case studies and Doreen (a village on commercial farmland in north Limpopo) and Phagameng (the township adjacent to Modimelle in Limpopo) were chosen as rural case studies. Whilst not representative of South Africa, the formative research produced rich data on the complex reasons for non-attendance and drop out in these communities.    

Absolute poverty measures

Absolute poverty is a term which refers to a state of deprivation measured by objective indicators, most often by income level (SPII, p.24).  An individual or household falling below some absolute standard - such as the Millennium Development Declaration of 'a dollar a day' - can be classified as poor.  

Absolute poverty is often used in international documents (?) to explain limited access to schools [find references, Global Monitoring Report, World Bank etc].  Direct costs, such as fees, uniform and stationary expenses, together with opportunity costs, where a child may be productively engaged in work if not in school, act to keep children out of educational institutions.  In Kenya, for example, the introduction of fee-free schooling had a dramatic increase in enrolments (Kattan, 2006).   

Most public attention has focused on the impact of school fees as a barrier which prevents poorer children from attending school. Even the low levels of fees charged by the poorest schools have proved to be a hurdle for poor families. The Education Rights Project (ERP) and the Education Inclusion and Exclusion in India and South Africa report (INEXSA) (Sayed & Soudien, 2003) and research by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, ��Access to Education for Learners in Thembelihle��, (CALS, 2006) indicated that school fees and the non-payment of fees have a bearing on educational access for the poor. Some schools have resorted to illegal and punitive steps to force payment of fees, such as withholding learners�� results, depriving learners of access to school facilities, and humiliating learners and parents publicly (Ramadiro, 2003; Sayed & Soudien, 2003). A number of cases revealed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation��s research in rural schools tell of learners who dropped out or missed portions of the school year as a result of criticism or humiliation inflicted on learners by educators and principals because their families were unable to pay the fees (NMF, 2005).  In its Review of the financing, resourcing and costs of education in public schools, the national Department of Education acknowledged that non-payment of fees sometimes resulted in schools acting contrary to human rights obligations: 

    Poor learners whose parents could not pay school fees have been turned away from school, placed in separate rooms, away from other learners, forced to sit on the floor, named and shamed in school assembly, and so on (DoE, 2003a: 54). 

Punishment for non-payment of fees was found in three of the four communities studied in the Social Surveys-CALS Barriers to Education formative research. Punishment for non-payment of fees include withholding learners�� report cards, refusing to issue learners with textbooks, forcing leaner��s to stand in class, allocating the few desks in the classroom to those learners whose caregivers had paid fees, threatening learners with expulsion and making parents work for the school in lieu of fees.  

Exemption policies are not always made known to parents. Most caregivers who participated in the Barriers to Education Formative Research focus groups indicated that they were struggling or unable to pay for their children��s education and were unaware that their children could not be punished or turned away from school for non-payment of fees, or for not having the correct school uniform. A school in Phagameng told parents that the fees exemption policy did not apply to them, but only to farm schools. This was accepted by the parents. Even those learners whose families have been officially exempted from payment have on occasions experienced intimidation and humiliation through comments made by the principal or educators (DoE, 2003a: 90).  

But, in the Department of Education's view, exclusion because of non-payment of school fees affects only a minority of families: "What the statistics do indicate, however, is that the problem is mainly one of a majority of parents in each school marginalizing a minority" (2003:83).  It also points to a survey of over 40,000 parents of randomly selected learners that showed that overall 85% of parents considered school fees to be reasonable (2003:83). High GER until the end of compulsory education does seem to bear the DoE out.  

There is some evidence that absolute poverty delays entry into grade 1.  Case, Hosegood and Lund (2005) assessed the impact of the Child Support Grant2 in the Umkhanyakude district in KwaZulu-Natal, and found that the grant appeared to ��overcome the impact of poverty on school enrolment�� (2005: 469). Using data collected from approximately 11 000 African households, the study found that children who received the grant (in 2002) were significantly more likely to be enrolled in school in the years following receipt of the grant than equally poor children of the same age (Case et al., 2005: 468). Among six year olds, receipt of the grant was associated with an 8.1% increase in school enrolment, and among seven year olds a 1.8% increase. Their older siblings, on the other hand, who were of school-going age before the Child Support Grant was implemented, were significantly less likely than other children of the same age to be enrolled in school. Because grant recipient households were poorer on average (measured in terms of household assets, parents�� educational attainment and employment), the findings of the survey suggested that the Child Support Grant enabled households to cover the expenses of schooling or to improve the nutrition and health of learners, both of which contributed to their school readiness. 

Absolute poverty may not just delay school entry but also protract the journey through school.  Hallman and Grant (2004), reporting on a longitudinal study in the Durban Metro and rural Mtunzini Magisterial District of KwaZulu Natal, observed that most young people had attained at least primary education by age 20, but poor children are more likely to have had ��school delays��.3 Of the approximately 3000 adolescents interviewed, more than half of the 14-15 year old youths in the lowest socio-economic quintiles had experienced a delay in schooling. By contrast, in the highest asset-rich quintile, only 27% of boys and 15% of girls had experienced delays.  

Using 1995 October Household Survey (OHS) data, Anderson, Case, & Lam (2001) found that African children who were lagging behind in their school grade had less money spent on school fees, school transport, and other school expenses. Learners who were behind six or more years for their grade had approximately half as much money spent on their schooling as children who were age-appropriate. This result persisted in multivariate analyses, controlling for such factors as the student��s age, gender, family structure, location, and household socio-economic characteristics.  

Hunter and May (2003) found that even in situations where households experienced unexpected socio-economic shocks, children's schooling was rarely disrupted.  They found that a substantial proportion (41%) of all households reported experiencing some type of shock during the 24-month period prior to September/October 1999, yet only 3% of those households said that they had removed one or more of their children from school (2003: 17).  

While absolute poverty may explain some cases of delayed entry into schooling, and protracted progression through schooling it does not appear to explain school drop-out.  In fact, poverty may draw children into school.   

This may in part be explained by the relatively low cost involved in going to school.  Most learners walk to school (77.5% of primary school learners and 71.2% of secondary school learners, DoE, 2005) and there is fairly widespread coverage of schools across the country. While payment of fees was a feature (now fee-free in the lowest two quintiles), school fees were low and, according to principals, only 58% of parents were paying school fees (DoE, 2003).  In addition, high adult unemployment and legislation preventing child labour, means there is limited opportunity for children to be engaged in income generating activity outside of school.  Living below the breadline may in fact encourage continued school attendance.  The Primary Schools Nutrition Programme, which offers children a daily meal, may act as an added incentive for learners living in absolute poverty to attend. In addition, school may offer a child minding facility for households where adults have some form of employment. Education also acts as a source of hope for future employment and a way out of dire poverty.   

The absolute poverty measure is also inadequate in explaining education access in South Africa because its focus on inputs, on the financing of schooling, tells us little of educational outcomes - whether education is meaningful and whether learners graduate with equal opportunity.  Increased spending on economic welfare alone is therefore not sufficient to explain drop-out from (or persistence) in schools.  We turn to the two other poverty indicators which focus on both the outcomes of education and the child��s experience of schooling for explanatory depth. 

Social exclusion perspective

Unlike absolute poverty, the concept of social exclusion is concerned with the experiences of poverty, its inequitable outcomes and the processes that lead to exclusion.  The focus is less on poverty as such but rather on how poverty acts to exclude children – and the phenomenological experience of poverty: in other words it puts the lived experiences and perceptions of learners at centre stage. The social exclusion literature emphasizes experience in relation to others and explains the mechanisms by which communities exclude others to maintain the status quo or obtain more resources for themselves.  For social exclusion theorists, poverty is a relative concept. It relates poverty to a reference group and determines poverty on where people are on a distribution curve.  "People are judged to be poor if they are poor in comparison to those around them" (SPII, p.25).    Relative poverty does not focus on bare survival but on inequalities within society.   

Relative poverty is structured into the educational system through the classification of schools into quintiles.  Schools fit into quintiles according to criteria such as physical infrastructure and the socio-economic status of the surrounding community and receive funding from government according to their relative poverty.   Schools are allowed to charge fees to supplement departmental funding - amounts depend on affordability - therefore quintile 5 which gets least from government but can draw on middle-class parents charge highest fees.  In effect, education is streamed on a class basis - based on geography and purse.     

Relative poverty also functions within schools, amongst learners. Poverty bites in relation to others: where children are equally poor they may be far less likely to drop out than those where there is a greater socio-economic mix. Social exclusion can be either the institution excluding the learner for non-payment, or for not having uniform etc, or about the community and institution acting in concert to exclude via the SGB, or about the child��s peers making her feel like an outside / inadequate – or about the child feeling conscious of her difference.  

To illustrate with another example from the Social Surveys-CALS formative research: Doreen is a small rural village just south of the Zimbabwean border surrounded by commercial farmland. The community is very poor and most households subsist on social grants and the meager income brought in by working on commercial farms. Children from Doreen and the surrounding area have to attend farm schools or leave home to attend school in Musina. The two farm schools do not offer education beyond grades 7 and 9 respectively and few households can afford the cost of supporting a child��s attendance at a school away from home.  As a result most children in Doreen do not receive more than a grade 9 education.  

The local schools were made no-fees school in 2006. Households are not paying school fees, but are of course faced with other access costs: uniforms, stationary etc. The significance for our argument is that while all of the households are very poor, all struggle to pay for uniforms and stationary, and many simply don��t pay – the children remain in school until grade 9.  

The community of Phagameng tells a contrasting story. Phagameng is a township adjacent to the town of Modimolle in Limpopo – local schools draw learners from the surrounding farming areas and the township. Whilst almost all the children attending the Phagameng township school are from low income households, there is a greater socio-economic mix of learners than in Doreen. And it is this difference, however small, that is key.  

Children from the local informal settlement in Phagameng were singled out by other learners for being poor and ��dirty��.  In Thembelihle learners and caregivers spoke of an acute sense of disempowerment and inadequacy in relation to the wealthier learners and parents at the schools they attended in Lenasia.  

The following quote is from a learner in Thembelihle who attended a high school in Lenasia before dropping out of school:  

����like when you are in a big family and the mother can��t give everyone the attention they need. She only concentrates on the youngest ones and forgets about you, and if you ask her for something regarding your school she won��t give it to you��When you get to school you see that other children have everything and you are the only one who does not have a thing so you end up dropping out of school because you feel like you are the odd one out. Then your mother starts calling you names because you dropped out��.4 

The reasons for school drop out are complex as the quote shows and a youth��s ��decision�� to drop out of school is seldom related to one clear factor, but to the compounding effects of a complex of social and economic factors. What the quote highlights is that fees and access costs were not the problem – it was the daily burden of poverty and the relative experience of poverty that pushed the child out of school.  

When understanding access to education we argue that poverty bites hardest in relation to others. Where children are equally poor they may be far less likely to drop out of school than those children who attend school where there is a greater socio-economic mix of learners.  

Redmond defines social exclusion as the ��processes in society that lead some people to be excluded from a range of institutions, activities, or environments: the ��denial�� or non-realization of civil, political, and social rights of citizenship�� (Room, 1995)��.5 Social Exclusion may be carried out on the basis of, for example, race, ethnicity, socio-economic difference and class.  

The Barriers to Education Survey encountered examples of children being excluded from schools in Thembelihle and Phagameng on the basis of non-payment of fees. Principals who act to exclude learners who are perceived to reduce the resources (and ��standard of education��) available to the school often have the tacit support of parents in the surrounding community via the SGB.6  

Ironically, in a community or school where no parents can afford to pay fees, access may be protected. The issue is less about the lack of affordability of education in the context of poverty but about the poverty of a child in relation to others and the process via which the child is excluded from school.  

The evidence at this stage on the effects of relative poverty and social exclusion on access are not conclusive, but we suggest this is an interesting area for further research.  The strength of the literature on relative poverty and social exclusion is that it puts the lived experience of the child at school at centre stage. It urges us to focus on understanding the experience of poverty in relation to others (other learners, the surrounding community) rather than simply the absolute costs of education.  

A puzzle still remains however. If absolute poverty explains delayed entry into schooling and protracted journeys through the school system, and relative poverty and social exclusion add to our understanding of how poverty affects school drop out in a way which is not contradicted by our high gross enrolment rates – how do we explain the sudden drop of school attendance in the post-basic phase of schooling (from grade 10)? 

We want to add yet another layer, and broaden our concept of poverty one step further. We argue that in some cases even where there is equality learners drop out of school. Relative poverty may be experienced throughout the school career. If the relative poverty and social exclusion model was sufficient it would have to explain the sudden and extreme drop out rate in the post-basic phase of schooling (from grade 10).  

The Capabilities Approach

We argue that Amartya Sen's (1999) capability approach illuminates the reasons for drop-out at this point.  Sen shows that even with resources and equality, this is no guarantee that near universal access will be achieved.  

Sen's capability approach extends the notion of poverty beyond subsistence measures to include whether people are free to live the life they wanted.  He defines human capabilities as being "the substantive freedom of people to lead the lives they have reason to value and enhance the real choices they have" (1999, p.293).  Equality with others and resources in themselves are not enough if they fail to convert into "functionings".  Functioning is the outcome apparent when individuals have been able to use their material possessions, innate talents and environment to live a life that is meaningful.   

Sen��s approach highlights two main issues.  The first is that quality of education and access are inextricably linked. The notion of "functionings", focuses attention on the outcomes of capabilities, such as the outcomes of access to schooling. For education access to mean anything it needs to encompass more than just physical access, or getting through the school gates. It should include the ability to participate and engage in meaningful education.  In other words, Sen shows us that education needs to help us in living a meaningful life – or increasing our chances of turning our innate abilities and contexts into capabilities.  Second, the capabilities approach reveals that learners have to perceive that education has meaning.  Like the social exclusion perspective, the capabilities approach puts experience at centre stage.  One can assess whether a learner has capability (educational utility) by understanding the internalization of the learner's experience.  Sen points out that: "freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are among its principal means" (1999. p.10). The example he gives of the interdependence of freedom and individual responsibility is that: "a child who is denied the opportunity of elementary schooling is not only deprived as a youngster, but also handicapped all through life" (1999, p.284).  Learners who come to realize their limited capability - that their knowledge of literacy and numeracy is inadequate to graduate and that high unemployment devalues the final certificate - may well conclude that education has little value. 

In the South African case, many learners are clearly not able to translate educational inputs into functionings.  International and national benchmark tests, such as TIMMS and SACMEQ, demonstrate that learners are failing to achieve literacy and numeracy outcomes.  The DoE's own systemic evaluations at grade 3 (DoE, 2003) and grade 6 (DoE, 2005b) showed dismal results.  In the Grade 6 tests (DoE, 2005b) learners obtained a national mean score of 38% in Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT), 27% in Mathematics, and 41% in Natural Sciences. Most worrying was that open-ended questions were particularly poorly answered, suggesting that learners might have scored slightly better in the Natural Sciences tests because 72% of the questions were multiple choice. The worst performing learners came from township, rural and farm schools - the poorest schools - but other factors may have contributed to their poor results.  The Grade 6 Systemic Evaluation Report (DoE, 2005b) points out that learners whose home language was the same as the Language of Learning and Teaching scored significantly higher than those who learnt in a language other than their mother-tongue7.  

If learners are realizing that their education has not improved their capabilities, then it may explain their reluctance to continue schooling beyond grade 9, when enrolment figures dip significantly.  In the senior secondary years, pressure on schools to perform in the high-stakes matric exams may result in them pushing out learners who are particularly weak and unlikely to succeed.  Learners may themselves recognize that they are not coping with the classroom content and boredom or economic opportunities outside of school in the form of crime for young men may leave youth feeling there is little value in pushing through. . 


This paper has argued that we need to use a broader and more complex understanding of poverty to understand barriers to education.  It��s not possible to understand poverty only in an absolute fashion.  Absolute poverty may delay entry into school, and protract the journey through school and in a few cases the daily burden of absolute poverty may see children leaving school altogether, but the simple equation between poverty and lack of access to school is not borne out in the South African case.  High Gross Enrolment Rates in the basic education phase (up until grade 9) indicates that most learners go to school.  

We used two additional, expanded perspectives on poverty – that of social exclusion and capabilities - to explain access patterns in South Africa. The social exclusion perspective focuses attention on drop-out in the basic education phase and points to the relative notion of poverty and to how learners experience poverty in the context of school and peer pressure.  The notion of relative poverty and social exclusion places the child��s experience of poverty and difference at centre stage – and unlike absolute poverty��s concentration on inputs / resources, it shows the importance of inequality and experience of difference in understanding how poverty impacts on children��s access to schooling. Ironically, then, South Africa's class-based schooling system may help keep learners in school.   

The second expanded perspective, Sen��s capability approach, clarifies the sudden drop-out in the post-basic phase of schooling when the effects of the poor quality of South African education hits hardest. The capabilities approach points out that even if you have resources and equality – you might still get drop out because your education has no utility.   Physical access alone is not sufficient as a robust definition of access, which must include a notion of learners making cognitive progress and attaining curricula outcomes.     

Taking these two perspectives into account, we have argued that relative poverty and the poor quality of education received by children in South African schools are the primary drivers behind school drop out in South Africa.  

Whilst these results need to be tested more extensively, the implications for policy are sobering. If in schools and communities where all children are poor they may be more likely to stay in school – what implications does this have for breaking class and socio-economic boundaries? Are children most vulnerable to dropping out when households display up-ward mobility of even the smallest kind (in sending their children to schools outside of their immediate community) – or where socio-economic difference exists?   

The solution lies in recognizing the relative experience of poverty and the process by which children and parents become excluded – from school itself and from participation in SGBs. If poverty is felt in a relative way then a simple concentration on fees and other access costs will not have a major impact on getting all children in school. Rather than this narrow focus (and possibly taking resources out of the system by making all schools fee-free), resources should be placed or redirected into providing better support mechanisms in schooling for principals, teachers and learners: counselors and social workers for example.  Significantly, the funding system would have to be reassessed to the extent that it provides incentives for principles and SGBs to exclude children on the basis of poverty or non-payment of fees.  

The economic welfare perspective on educational access does not account for meaningful access.  Physical access alone is not sufficient as a robust definition of access, which must include a notion of learners making cognitive progress and attaining curricula outcomes.    Most importantly, interventions to increase access beyond the basic school phase of grade 9 need to be based on a recognition of the inextricable link between access and quality. Sen��s capabilities approach focuses our attention on the outcomes of an educations system in understanding access patterns. Youth are aware that for education access to mean anything it needs to comprise more than just getting through the school gates. Education needs to assist children and households in developing a life they have reason to value (Sen, 1999).  Focusing resources (funds or time) on quality is not at the expense of access issues – but directly begins to address them.  


Anderson, K., Case, A. & Lam, D. (2001). Causes and consequences of schooling outcomes in South Africa: Evidence from survey data. Population Studies Center Research Report, No. 01-409. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan . 

Case, A., Hosegood, V., & Lund, F. (2005). The reach and impact of Child Support Grants: evidence from KwaZulu-Natal. Development Southern Africa, 22(4): 467-482.  

Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS, 2006), ��Access to Education for Learners in Thembelihle��, University of the Witwatersrand 

DoE (2003). Grade 3 Systemic Evaluation Report. Pretoria: Department of Education. 

DoE (2005a). Monitoring and Evaluation Report on the Impact and Outcomes of the Education System on South Africa��s Population: evidence from household surveys. September. Pretoria: Department of Education. 

Department of Education (DoE, 2005b). Grade 6 Systemic Evaluation Report. Pretoria: Department of Education. 

Fleisch, B. & Woolman, S. (2004). On the constitutionality of school fees: A reply to Roithmayr. Perspectives in Education, 22(1): 111-123. 

Hallman, K. & Grant, M. (2004). Poverty, educational attainment, and livelihoods: How well do young people fare in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa? Horizon Research Summary. Washington, D.C.: Population Council. 

Hunter, N. and May, J. (2003). Poverty, Shocks and the School Disruption Episodes among Adolescents in South Africa. Centre for Social and Development Studies Working Paper, Issue 35. 

Kattan, R.B. (2006). Implementation of free basic education policy (Education Working Paper Series, No. 7). Washington, DC: The World Bank.  

Lewin, K. M (2007). Pathways to Access: Improving Access, Equity and Transitions in Education: Creating a Research Agenda. Create Discussion Paper No. 1. Falmer, Brighton: Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity. Centre for International Education, University of Sussex, May. 

Nelson Mandela Foundation (2005). Emerging Voices: A Report on Education in South African Rural Communities. Researched for the NMF by the Human Sciences Research Council and the Education Policy Consortium. Cape Town: HSRC Press.


Noble, M., Wright, G and Cluver, L (2007) ��Conceptualising, defining and measuring child poverty in South Africa: an argument for a multidimensional approach��, in Andrew Dawes, Rachel Bray, Amelia van der Merwe (eds)Monitoring Child Well-Being: A South African rights-based approach, HSRC Press: Cape Town, p.53-71.


Oosthuizen, M (2008) ��Estimating Poverty Lines for South Africa��, Discussion Document, Research commissioned by the Department of Social Development, Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), University of Cape Town. 

Ramadiro, B. (2003). School or food? The cost of public education. Indicator 20(1): 1-10. 

Redmond, G (2008) "Child poverty and child rights: Edging towards a definition" Journal of Children and Poverty, 14(1): 63-82. 

Roithmayr,D (2002). ��The constitutionality of school fees in public education.�� Education Rights Project.

Centre for Applied Legal Studies. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand. Issue Paper. 

Sayed, Y. & Soudien, C. (2003). (Re)Framing education exclusion and inclusion discourses: Limits and possibilities. In R. Subramanian, Y. Sayed, S. Balagopalan, & C. Soudien (eds.) Education inclusion and exclusion: Indian and South African perspectives. IDS Bulletin, 34(1), January, University of Sussex.  

Sen, Amartya (1999) Development as Freedom, Alfred A. Knopf: New York 



1 Thirty-one percent of households in South African fall below the poverty line if we use the bottom 20th percentile in terms of household income. Using the 40th percentile, 54.3% of households fall below the line (R470 per month). Calculated from 2007 StatsSA data (Oosthuizen, 2008, 9).

2 The Child Support Grant is a non-conditional means-tested cash transfer given to parents or primary caregivers whose monthly income is less than R1100. Initially the grant was targeted at children under the age of 7 but was extended to those younger than 14 years. The grant has steadily increased from R110 per eligible child in 2002 to R190 in 2006.

3 A delay is defined as a year of non-advancement because of either not having enrolled at all during a particular year (but eventually returning to school), or withdrawal during the year, or repeating a grade because of poor performance the previous year.

4 Thembelihle learner focus group, February 2007.

5 Redmond page 70.

6 Caregivers from low income households in Phagameng and Thembelihle felt that they were marginalised from actively engaging with the SGB. An educator in a school based in Phagameng for example, commented that despite the fact that the vast majority of households in the surrounding township spoke Pedi (check with Khathu*), SGB meetings and other educator-parent forums were conducted in English, limiting the active participation of many parents – who were more likely to be those from socially and financially marginalised households.

7 LOLT may be a measure of other socio-economic factors.

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