01 JULY 2022 

Do we truly live in a “never-again” society? A report on improving the quality in learning outcomes 

Two decades since the end of apartheid, racial inequality remains a defining feature of South Africa’s education system. Schools in disadvantaged communities continue to serve black students almost exclusively, with schools in more advantaged communities serving mostly white students.  

Whilst the social position of some individuals has changed, with the racial composition of South Africa’s middle class including an increasing number of black and coloured individuals, there is still a long way to go, with poverty stifling urban and rural black communities all over the country. 

The Equal Education Law Centre’s (“EELC”) is releasing a report on Friday 1 July 2022, report, titled Improvement in quality learning outcomes & equity in public education in South Africa: A spotlight on “underperforming” Schools which acknowledge this reality. The report examines the current inadequate and stigmatising situation of underperforming schools, and the significant policy and implementation gaps that exist in the provision of support interventions to assist them. The report specifically assesses the existing regulatory framework for underperforming schools to determine whether it can address systemic underperformance.  

On 30 June, the management of schools which have been declared underperforming are expected to report to Head of Departments (HOD) of Provincial Education Departments on progress made with the implementation of School Improvement Plans. EELC releases this report at this time and calls for, amongst other things, that HODs holistically consider all relevant information when assessing underperformance and not just information about the academic performance of the school. In addition, the existing criteria for identifying underperforming schools should be clarified. The report recommends that the focus of the regulatory framework should be less on exam results and should look at each school, in its unique context, to identify the challenges facing the school and the  appropriate support interventions to address them.  

As it stands, the regulatory framework for school underperformance has not succeeded in reversing educational inequality. However, if the framework is reformed in the ways the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) recommends, it could unlock effective, sustainable interventions for all schools who need them.  

The reformed regulatory framework should be grounded in the reality of the South African education system and its history. We need a clear-sighted, reflective, tailored, and holistic approach to improving school performance. In this way the transformative vision of the Constitution can be realized, and truly equal education achieved.  


To arrange a media interview please contact: 

Anele Gcwabe 

Media and Communications Coordinator 

Tell: 021 461 1421 

Cell: 071 143 6608 


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The Equal Education Law Centre EELC is a public interest litigation organisation which seeks to address systemic inequalities in the South African education system through coordinated strategies, advocacy, and action to bring about sustained change. The EELC provides a daily walk-in clinic, which offers free legal support to individuals and communities. The lawyers employed by the EELC provide legal support, litigation where necessary, and on the ground interventions to assist marginalised learners and community members in realising their rights to equality, dignity, and education