It is not every day that Treasury reports can make you want to drink in the middle of the day. Then again, it’s not every day you realise a country-wide crisis has been brewing under your nose for a decade and no one noticed it. Over the past seven years there has been a consistent decline in the purchasing power of per pupil expenditure on basic education, and no one has said a thing. To put it bluntly, funding per schoolchild has declined 8% in seven years. In so many ways this undoes any of the advances we think we might have made in the education arena over the last seven years. For a while now we’ve known that something funny happened in SA between 2003 and 2005, when births spiked 13% and continued to stay high for a few years before coming down slightly in 2008. The leading explanation is the roll-out of antiretrovirals over the same period. True to form, grade 1 enrolments spiked 13% five years later in 2008, with subsequent enrolment data showing this cohort slowly working ...

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