Children Count - Abantwana Babalulekile, Statistics on children in South Africa Children's Institute - University of Cape Town

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Education - Children's Right to Eduction
Authors | Paula Proudlock, Katharine Hall 1

Children’s Right to Education

The South African Constitution, in Section 29 (1) (a) of the Bill of Rights, provides everyone with the “right to basic education”. Section 29 (1) (b) adds that everyone also has the “right to further education”.

Education is essential for children to develop into their full potential. It is considered so important that human rights treaties prescribe that governments must provide free compulsory primary education for children. This is a minimum core obligation of governments in terms of international law.

Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that everyone has the right to education and, to achieve the full realisation of this right, “primary education must be compulsory and available free to all”. Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also obliges the State to “make primary education compulsory and available free to all”.

While providing that the State must ensure that the full right can be progressively implemented over time, international law creates a minimum core of the full right that must be provided immediately (free compulsory primary education). When assessing whether a state is adhering to international law, international monitoring bodies will concentrate first on assessing whether the minimum core has been provided. The State’s provision of sufficient numbers of schools, as well as funding to primary schools to ensure access for all children is considered part of the minimum core that must be provided immediately.

The attendance rate is also a good indicator of whether a state is meeting its minimum core obligation.

In South Africa, the dominant debate is about access to education, due to problems with the design and implementation of the school fee exemption system, with many reported cases of poor children being denied access to schools.

While the school fee debate has been the main concern in South Africa as far as children’s right to education is concerned, there are other issues that have an impact on whether or not children are able to access and enjoy their right to education. These include:

If we want to measure whether children’s right to education is being realised, we need to look at indicators that provide information on availability of education, access to education, quality of education and the outcomes of education. Indicators developed at an international level and in South Africa are all aimed at measuring these four areas. Some indicators reflect purely on the issue of access or availability, while most indicators provide information on all four areas.

The education indicators on the Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile web site provide information on availability of, access to, quality of and outcomes of education.

The indicators available in this domain are:

The number and proportion of children attending an educational institution
This indicator reflects the number and proportion of children attending a school or educational institution. The data reflects the attendance of children aged 7 – 17 years at a public or private educational facility.

The number and proportion of children living far from the nearest school
This indicator reflects the distance from a child's household to the nearest school. Distance is measured through a proxy indicator: length of time travelled to reach the nearest (primary or secondary) school. The nearest school is regarded as ‘far’ if a child would have to travel more than 30 minutes to reach it, irrespective of mode of transport.

Gender Parity Index in schooling
The Gender Parity Index (GPI) reflects females’ level of access to education compared to that of males. This is calculated for each school phase. A GPI of less than 1 indicates that there are fewer females than males in the formal education system in proportion to the appropriate school-age population. A GPI of more than 1 means that there are proportionately more girls than boys attending school. A score of 1 reflects equal enrolment rates for boys and girls.

Number and proportion of schools with access to adequate sanitation
This indicator reflects the number and proportion of schools with adequate sanitation facilities. For the purposes of this indicator, basic sanitation facilities include flush toilets, ventilated improved pit latrines (VIPs) and Enviroloos. Inadequate sanitation facilities include ordinary pit latrines, buckets or no toilets.

Number and proportion of schools with access to water on site
This indicator shows the number and proportion of schools with access to clean and reliable water on site.

Learner-to-educator ratio
The learner-to-educator ratio (LER) is the average number of learners per educator at a specific level of education, or for a specific type of school, in a given school year.

1 Children's Institute



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