Mantashe’s reported no-fee school claim not supported by data

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Are 87% of South African students in no-fee schools? Or is it 87% of high school students? Both these claims were attributed to the ruling party’s secretary general. And both are incorrect.

Universities across South Africa have been hit by protests for free education in recent weeks. In response to the protests, African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe said that he would close universities for 16 months if he was minister of higher education.

Last week he was reported to have told investors in Cape Town that “87% of students in South Africa are in no-fee schools. That is free education”.

His party tweeted a different story. A tweet posted by the African National Congress claims that Mantashe said that “87% of high school students are in no fees [sic] school”.

Mantashe’s office did not respond to numerous queries seeking to clarify what was actually said.

Is either of these claims true?

Data doesn’t support claims

Children walking to schools in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape. Photo: Department of Communications
Children walking to schools in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape. Photo: Department of Communications

The department of basic education’s assistant director of financial planning, Erna Lubbe, told Africa Check that 87.7% of South Africa’s 23,905 public schools were classified as no-fee schools in 2015.

That year there were 12,248,279 students in the basic education system (Grade R to Grade 12) and 77.2% of them attended no-fee schools.

Lubbe said that this figure did not include students who were attending fee-paying schools but received a fee exemption from the school governing body. She said that the department did not collect data on this.

What about high school students?

The department’s chief director of communications, Elijah Mahlanga, told Africa Check that data from provincial education departments showed that 76.7% of students in high schools (Grade 8 to Grade 12) attended no-fee schools.

Conclusion: Both tweeted & reported statistic incorrect

The claim that “87% of students in South Africa are in no-fee schools”, attributed to Mantashe in news reports, is not correct.

Neither is the African National Congress’ tweet which claims that Mantashe said that “87% of high school students are in no-fees [sic] school”.

Data from the department of basic education shows that 77.2% of public students attended no-fee schools in 2015.

The statistic was similar for high school students. The department told Africa Check that 76.7% of students in public high schools (Grade 8 to Grade 12) attended no-fee schools.

Edited by Noko Makgato

 

Additional reading:

GUIDE: Assessing South Africa’s schooling system

GUIDE: Assessing South Africa’s matric exam results

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