Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BUSINESS DAY/FREDDY MAVUNDA
Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BUSINESS DAY/FREDDY MAVUNDA

SA schools that were reserved for white pupils during apartheid should recruit more black teachers, include more African languages and change admissions criteria, according to SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago.

Kganyago’s comments add to a growing debate about integrating more blacks into one of the world’s most-unequal societies. He joined a group of parents in an antiracism protest at Cornwall Hill College, a private school attended by his daughter near Pretoria, the capital.

“The school has got to consciously go out and look for black teachers to give our children pride to actually look and know that there are black people who are excelling in the education sphere,” Kganyago told broadcaster eNCA on Monday while at the protest.

Reports of a lack of transformation at the school have spurred protests, as have allegations by black students that they experienced discrimination. In a May 26 statement, the school said it was revisiting its hair policy, diversity training and the structure of its board.

Disparities in wealth and apartheid’s legacy of placing townships on the periphery of cities has meant that inequities have persisted since 1994. That has also resulted in student bodies that do not always reflect the country’s demographics.

In recent years, antiracism protests at schools have been driven by non-inclusive dress-code rules about natural hair and the wearing of religious symbols. In 2020 reports emerged that invitations to a private gathering for a Cape-Town school’s final-year students had mainly been extended to white pupils.

Cornwall Hill College charges annual fees of as much as R93,550, putting it out of the reach of most locals. In 2015, employed white on average earned three times more than blacks with jobs.

SA spends about 14% of its budget on primary and secondary education at government schools, more than on any other expenditure item. However, the persistent poor quality of education in historically disadvantaged communities that serve the majority of its children continues to weigh on outcomes in a country where almost a third of the workforce is unemployed.

SA's  quality of schooling was ranked 114th out of 137 countries by the World Economic Forum in 2017, the last time the organisation published the measure in its Global Competitiveness Index. The school system is held back by a lack of knowledge among teachers, an uneven availability of textbooks and labour unions that “fervently resist any policy to monitor teachers by blocking accountability reforms”, the IMF said in a 2019 report.

Black staff at the historically white central bank made up 76% of its total workforce in 2020, compared with about 65% six years earlier, according to central bank data, when Kganyago was appointed governor.

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