"In South Africa, the hierarchical structure of society, including access to wealth, prestige and power, was constructed to be on the basis of race through decades and even centuries of institutionalised inequality"(Taylor & Yu 2009, 5). Under the apartheid state, income inequalities were systematically structured along racial lines. The racist policies of the state were explicit and deliberate and this racial discrimination directly affected income and earnings.
A history of oppression and inequality in education
Until the early 20th century, virtually all non-whites were subjected to missionary schooling. This, in contrast to whites who received schooling directly provided for or subsidised by local governments. By 1923 it was compulsory for all children of 'European descent' to undergo a minimum of seven years of schooling, while it remained optional, and often exceptionally challenging, for non-whites to pursue an education. (Malherbe, 1925, 401).Segregated Bantu education
It has been argued that one of the biggest tragedies of democratic South Africa is the lack of real reform within the education system. Post-1994 many public schools recruited black teachers, many of whom were themselves products of the Bantu Education system. The administration at the time, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, followed by Thabo Mbeki, unfortunately did little to eradicate unequal access to quality education in democratic South Africa. (Biko, 2013).Education today bears scars of the past
Spaull's analysis of standardised cross-national assessments, that South Africa participates in, shows that a large proportion of black pupils from poor schools are functionally illiterate and innumerate. Despite being an economic power in Sub-Saharan Africa and its massive financial investment into education, South Africa's education performance is below that of many countries including low-income African countries (Spaull, 2013). A key indicator used by the South African government to measure education performance is the "matric", or high school graduation, pass rate. Education researchers have pointed to the misleading use of this indicator, as it fails to account for the high levels of drop-outs.Half of the young drop out
South Africa's unemployment rate is chronically high at 25.2 percent overall and a youth (15-34 years) unemployment rate of 36.1 percent (Statistics South Africa, 2014). The disaggregated unemployment data shows that most of the unemployed are typically young and black and have lesser years of education (Murray et al. 2010; Branson et al. 2012).Rampant unemployment
So far in this text we have shown how injustices within the education system persist and have very real consequences for the larger South African population. A poor education drastically decreases prospects of social mobility and many youth are condemned to lives of fewer opportunities and a lowered sense of self-determination. In South Africa, the type of education an individual has access to is largely proportional to their socio-economic status, and because socio-economic status and race are so inextricably linked within the South African context, the danger exists for the further perpetuation of the stereotype that intelligence and development are the domains of whites and that blacks are largely uneducated and inferior. Poor schools have higher absenteeism, failures and drop outs, leading to higher levels of unemployment among youth who often as a consequence engage in illegal activities. Prospects of qualifying for tertiary education are also significantly reduced. (de Kadt, n.d., 27).In summary: education inequality persists.
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