Charter schools – or as they are known in the Western Cape, collaboration schools — give SA’s poorest children a route out of poverty. The schools are run in collaboration with private donors and nonprofit education providers, based on a model that has been gaining ground in the UK, the US and some South American and African countries. SA has one of the most unequal education systems in the world. Even in the public school system, the gap in learning between those at fee-paying schools and those at no-fee schools is vast. The latter typically serve the lowest 25% of income earners. Stellenbosch University researcher Nic Spaull estimates that in maths and science the average grade 9 pupil at a fee-charging public school has two or three more years’ worth of knowledge and learning than a grade 9 pupil at a no-fee public school. A major challenge facing the state is to ensure that lower-income communities have access to the same quality of teaching and learning as those from more afflu...

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