Child labour and education in South Africa

These two topics are closely connected in South Africa. Most black families do not have enough money, so they must send their children to work. But if children work, they cannot go to school. Then, if the children do not receive proper education, they have little hope of getting a well paid job. This is a vicious circle very difficult for the families to get out of.

Child labour in South Africa

The "Basic Conditions of Employment Act " (BCEA) forbid the employment of a child under fifteen years, before the termination of the basic school education or under eighteen, if the work is not adequately and demonstrate a danger of health, education, moral or development of the child. It is considered a criminal act if someone helps an employer to appoint a child or to discriminate against a person, who refuses to employ a child.

Child labour in South Africa
On the other hand South Africa has made big progress since the end of the Apartheid-Regime . The government had built more than a million houses for deserving people, and more people have access to clean water. However, there are extreme differences in wealth and in access to basic services. South Africa has the highest number of humans with HIV/AIDS. 11% of the population must live on less than one US-Dollar per day and the rate of unemployment amounts to 21.7% in 2008.

In South Africa there are 2.63 million children between the ages of five and fourteen who work. This is 24.8% of children in this age group. 26.1% boys and 23.4% girls work. Nearly two-thirds of these children work in agriculture, one-third in the service industry and the remainder in industry. There are many jobs which children do, such as hawker, housemaid, farm work and gardening and drug-trafficking. Because of the growth of international tourism sexual exploitation is increasing also; about 28'000 children are affected. South Africa is the target country of slave traders, who sell children for prostitution.

The main reason for child labour is poverty and is common within the black population. The children often do dangerous work. Authorities and the police may be corrupt. That is why child labour is often not reported. Employers engage children because they are cheap and the children cannot resist. Another important factor is the high HIV/AIDS rate. Many children grow up without parents and, therefore, must work to survive.

Nelson Mandela instigated the "Children's Bill " which should guarantee children more rights. Parents can get financial assistance for children up to the age of thirteen. But the effectiveness of the subsidy may be impaired because of bureaucratic problems.


In South Africa child labour is illegal and a criminal act. Nevertheless many children work, usually for their own family and often the employment is exploitative. The main reasons for child labour are poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Schools and education in South Africa

Before the arrival of Europeans, many African societies set a high value on traditional forms of education. For example, the adults in
Learning how to read and write
Khoisan - and Bantu -speaking societies had expanded responsibilities for transmitting cultural values skills within relation-based groups and sometimes within larger organisations, villages or districts.

The earliest European schools in South Africa were established in the late seventeenth century. Dutch Reformed Church elders gave biblical instruction which was necessary for church confirmation. In agrarian areas, teachers taught basic literacy and math skills. After the arrival of the first members of the London Missionary Society in 1799, British mission schools proliferated. This did not please some devout Afrikaners. They considered English irrelevant to rurual life and Afrikaner values. However, later on school enrolment in the Afrikaner areas increased because the government agreed with Afrikaans as a languae of instruction in schools.

Today South Africa has 12.3 millions students and 386'600 teachers. In government-funded public schools, the average ratio of students to teacher is 32.6 to one, while in private schools, there is generally one teacher for every 17.5 learners. Today (contrary to the period of apartheid!) no child may be excluded from school because of his or her race or religion. There are three bands of education which are recognised by South Africa's National Qualifications Framework (NQF): General, Further and Higher Education and Training (see also graphics below).

Schooling begins with grade 0, also known as grade R or "reception year" and ends with grade 12 or the grade "matric", which is the year of matriculation. General Education and Training is from grade 0 to 9. Because of the South African Schools Act of 1996 , education is obligatory for all South Africans from age 7 to age 15 or the graduation of grade 9. Further Education and Training runs from grade 10 to 12. In the late 1990s, the pass rate was represent as low as 40 %. It continues to improve each year and finally reaches 68.3% in 2005.
Today a major problem is the high HIV/AIDS-rate. Because of AIDS many teachers die. There is also a lack of classrooms. South Africa allocates considerable amounts of money to schooling, but it is not always wisely invested. The best schools are usually for whites. Most students who do not pass the school leaving examination are black. Another problem is teaching materials with European content and not well suited for the needs of African children.


Education is obligatory for all South Africans from age 7 to age 15 or the graduation of grade 9. However, although South Africa has a well developed educational system, many problems remain. Black children, in particular, suffer from a lack of well-trained teachers, infrastructure and educational materials.