Durban - South Africa is fast heading towards a crisis of poverty and inequality, a senior African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Jo-Ann Downs warned.

Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of her party’s manifesto for KwaZulu-Natal, she said there remained pronounced inequalities while poverty levels were growing. The number of people living below the poverty line had increased from 2 million in 1994 to 4 million in 2006 nationally. In KwaZulu-Natal, 48.4 percent lived below this line, she said.

Addressing supporters at the Jewish Hall in Durban, Downs said the ACDP had solutions to some of the problems.

Fixing education was one of the party’s key priorities, she said, because education correlated with the standard of living. This would include promoting access to higher education through making more bursaries available.

Downs said last year, about 58.5 percent of whites, 51 percent of Indians, 14.3 percent of coloureds and 12 percent of blacks entered higher education and that this continued the cycle of poverty.

Part of the problem for KZN was that education remained underfunded, with spending of R9 471 a pupil being the lowest in the country. “The ACDP would increase the spend per pupil to improve resources in rural schools, such as computer and science labs.”

The party also wanted incentives for teachers and principals, to encourage them to relocate to poorer schools

It proposed that formal schooling start at a much younger age. “A quarter of KZN children under the age of 4 attend ECD (early childhood development) facilities, while facilities are provided, parents need to be educated on the importance of ECD to lifetime learning.”

Other priorities the ACDP identified included measures to boost economic growth, policies to protect women and children and fighting corruption.

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