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South Africa

Higher Education

University-level education suffered under apartheid. When the NP came to power in 1948, there were ten government-subsidized institutions of higher learning--four with classes taught in English; four with classes taught in Afrikaans; one bilingual correspondence university; and the South African Native College at Fort Hare, in which most classes were taught in English but other languages were permitted. The four Afrikaans universities and one of the English-language universities (Rhodes University) admitted white students only. Students of all races attended the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Natal, although some classes at these universities were segregated.

The Extension of University Education Act (No. 45) of 1959 prohibited established universities from accepting black students, except with the special permission of a cabinet minister. The government opened several new universities and colleges for black, coloured, and Indian students, and these students were allowed to attend a "white" university only if their "own" institutions became too overcrowded. The University of the North, established in 1959, for example, admitted students of Tsonga, Sotho, Venda, or Tswana descent only.

The 1959 law also gave the central government control over the South African Native College at Fort Hare (later the University of Fort Hare), and the government instituted a new policy of admitting Xhosa students only to that school. Several technikons (advanced-level technical schools) gave preference to students of one ethnic group. Overall, however, the 1959 legislation reduced opportunities for university education for blacks, and by 1978 only 20 percent of all university students in South Africa were black. During the 1980s, several university administrations, anticipating the dismal impact of the long-term racial biases in education, began admitting students from all racial groups.

As of the mid-1990s South Africa has twenty-one major universities, which are government-financed and open to students of all races. In addition, secondary-school graduates can attend one of fifteen technikons , 128 technical colleges, and seventy teacher-training colleges (which do not require high-school certificates for admission), or another in a wide array of teacher training institutions (see table 4, Appendix). Students in universities and teacher-training colleges numbered 362,000 in 1994, and the institutions themselves had 14,460 academic staff members. At technical colleges and technikons , students numbered 191,087, and teaching staff numbered 5,532.

Each university administration is headed by a government-appointed chancellor, the institution's senior authority; a vice chancellor; and a university council. The chancellor is often a civic leader or political figure whose primary function is to represent the university to the community. The university council, comprising members of the university and the community, names the vice chancellor or rector, who controls the administration of the institution. The vice chancellor generally holds office until age sixty-five.

The university senate manages academic and faculty affairs, under the vice chancellor's authority. Each university sets its own tuition costs and receives government funding based on student:faculty ratios and tuition receipts. The university academic year lasts thirty-six weeks; school terms and vacation periods are set by the university council. The government establishes general degree requirements, but the individual university's council and administration set specific requirements for each campus.

A variety of adult education opportunities are available. These include classes in basic literacy, in technical and vocational subjects, and in sports and leisure activities. Two universities, those of Cape Town and Witwatersrand, offer classes for instructors in adult education, and Witwatersrand has a course leading to a diploma for adult educators. Some of these programs are being reoriented in the 1990s to emphasize literacy training for the more than 8 million adults who cannot read.

Health and Welfare

South Africa's population in general enjoys good health, compared with other African countries in the 1990s. Rural health care compares favorably with delivery systems in Kenya and in Nigeria, for example. The system reflects the biases of apartheid, in that superior care is available to wealthy urban residents, most of whom were white as of 1995, and inferior services are available to the poor, who are black. These differences began to narrow in the early 1990s, as apartheid was being dismantled. Under the government's 1994 blueprint for social and economic development, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), R14 billion (for value of the rand--see Glossary) was set aside for improvements in health care.

Data as of May 1996

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