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Why South Africa needs Independent Education

Independent schools cost the state less than one third of what they would have paid to educate a learner in a public school.

Independent schools cost the state less than one third of what they would have paid to educate a learner in a public school.

Published Apr 7, 2021


In 1996 the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 both identified the essential role that independent schools would need to play in order for the new national education strategy to be achieved.

It was foreseen that the state would not be able to provide the education needs of the country for the foreseeable future. Since then independent schools have continued to play an important role in providing quality education.

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Many independent schools were started during the previous government in order to assist with the education of disadvantaged learners who were not catered for at that time.

Beyers Naude High School, previously located in Braamfontein, was an example of an independent school that was established to respond to this need. When Beyers Naude High School closed, the learners were accommodated by Phoenix College as a result of a recommendation by the Gauteng Department of Education.

At meetings of the Gauteng Education Portfolio Committee held at the Gauteng legislature it was proven that not only do independent schools cost the state less than one third of what they would have paid to educate a learner in a public school, while costing parents less to send their children to these schools than to former model ”C” schools, but that independent schools in the province have during the period 2009 to 2017 often achieved a higher average matric pass rate than that achieved by public schools.

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Parents are voting with their purses and learners with their feet to support independent schools such as Phoenix College because of the “cost : benefit” ratio.

The founding and development of Phoenix College

In 1994 Fred Boltman, a retired engineer, used his savings, insurance payouts and pension payout to found Phoenix College in order to empower the community by supplying quality education at an affordable cost to historically disadvantaged learners from the poorer socio economic classes. With the drop in the economic climate, he mortgaged his home in order to obtain finances to keep the school afloat.

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Phoenix College has occupied Happiness House for approximately 18 years. The location of the building, conveniently close to rail and taxi services, has been a key factor underlying the college’s success but the building may not be able to accommodate planned future growth and additional accommodation will have to be sought. As the present building is fully occupied, Phoenix College is engaged with planning a second school for which the land has already been purchased.

The full time school caters mainly for learners that live in the inner city. However many also come from areas such as Katlehong, Thokoza, Soweto and Alexandra. A minority of learners come from outside South Africa’s borders.

In about 2006, however, Phoenix College took in 16 refugees from the DRC whose parents had been massacred in the war. They were fed, provided with uniforms and after they passed matric, they were united with family members that were traced overseas. Many of them obtained their degrees in Sweden, Canada,the U.S.A. and other countries.

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The Phoenix College Saturday School provides extra lessons to uplift learners from poorly performing public schools in outlying districts.

The staff members are professionals that place education above their ambitions. Phoenix College is an NPO that is run by an executive committee.

Find out more about Phoenix college here.

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