Back to School in South Africa: School readiness gaps for children in South Africa

School Cone

Back to School in South Africa: School readiness gaps for children in South Africa

Zilla Stekhoven: Founder of Sawabona Africa

When I moved to Germany, I learnt about the ‘Schultüte’. This is a cone given to children when they start the first class filled with everything children need for school and loads of sweets. In South Africa, learners start their school year in January without a ‘Schultüte’. In this blog I explore the pressing issue of inadequate school readiness for the vast majority of South Africans.

When I started school in South Africa, I was well prepared. After 2 years of pre-school (Kindergarten), I was well equipped with my school uniform (still mandatory in South Africa), school books and stationery. I had the required baseline to start school: I could recognise pictures, count, and had all the required level of fine motor coordination required to set me up for my 12 years of schooling. This is still the reality for privileged South Africans, however for the many underprivileged children this is not the case.  The beginning of their educational journey starts with a continuing lack of resources and comes with significant challenges due to a lack of adequate preparation in early childhood.

Understanding the school readiness gap and the lack of resources:

Before starting school at age 6 or 7, children attend a Pre-School, called Early Learning Programme (ELP) officially. The expectation is that children are all ready to start with formal schooling. Is this the case?

Statistics paint a concerning reality: A staggering 65 % of children in South Africa who attend an Early Learning Programme (ELP) are not adequately prepared to start school due to inadequate Early Childhood Development (ECD) opportunities. 1

unequipped ECD
Picture: Many children attend an unequipped ECD. Source: Impande

Why do these gaps exist?

Sadly, in South Africa there is a lack of high-quality ELPs. Many don’t have educational toys (or any toys), care givers are untrained, and children are often malnourished. The lack of learning of basic skills 2 results in a significant portion of children being ill-equipped for formal schooling. This perpetuates a cycle of academic challenges and limits opportunities for these young learners.

The gap continues throughout schooling

The gap is also experienced by learners throughout their school years. Whether children are starting school for the first time, or just starting a new year, children are not ill-equipped. Families cannot afford school uniforms, children continue to go to school hungry, and do not have the required stationery or resources (e.g. school books) required to help them succeed. It is a luxury to own a laptop, which is now required for most school learners for their homework, school projects and on-line learning. This paints a bleak reality for the majority of South African children.

Healty meal for school learners
Picture:Learners receive a healthy meal at a well-equipped ECD centre. Source : Pebbles Project (supported by Sawabona Africa)

Empowering South Africa’s youth

Recognizing the urgency of addressing this gap, Non-profit organizations and local communities are stepping up to bridge the gap in school readiness. Sawabona Africa’s mission is clear: to equip underprivileged children with the necessary tools for a successful start to their educational journey and support local charities that are providing the necessary interventions. We partner with charities who deliver high quality ECD to children, and / or support children afterschool with supplementary educational resources. We aim to empower these children and level the playing field.

How can you help

You too can play a pivotal role in transforming the educational landscape for these children. Your support, whether through donations, sponsoring a child’s education, or spreading awareness, contributes to ensuring every child’s readiness for school and for their success in life.

Join us in this mission to unlock the potential of South Africa’s youth through education and support one of our partner charities.

Donate to our partner projects.