South African is a wonderful country to grow up in. It’s climate naturally leads to an outdoor lifestyle which is enjoyed by everyone and plays a large part in children’s school careers.
The South African school year is split into 4 terms, starting in January of each year. School starts between 7.30 and 8.00, with academic lessons continuing until lunchtime and extra curricula activities taking place in the afternoon. Children may start school (Grade 1) at the age of 5½ as long as they turn 6 by June 30th of that year. All children must have started school by the year in which they turn 7.
Expats generally decide on private education for their children and there are lots of excellent schools to choose from. If you are only living in South Africa for a few years, then an international school which be a good place to send your older children, as these schools offer the International Baccalaureate and/or O and A levels.
The other option is what are called former Model C schools. They are government schools which are administrated and largely funded by a governing body of parents and alumni. There are some excellent schools in this category and they are nowhere near as expensive as the private or international schools.
Students in South Africa take matric exams at the end of their school career. This is like the old UK matric, where a student is examined in a minimum of 6 subjects. Unfortunately, the government matric exams fall short of preparing students for university. Private schools take the IEB matric exams (Independent Examination Board) which are of a much higher standard than those taken in government schools, thus better preparing children for tertiary education.
Sport and Schools
South African schools place a heavy emphasis on sporting activities, generally with every afternoon dedicated to this pursuit of excellence. Like most countries, there is fierce competition between schools, with some of the more important clashes turning into the social events of the year e.g. the Hilton/Michaelhouse rugby matches which take place in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands in May and August each year.
Private schools offer a wide range of sport – rugby, soccer, tennis, swimming, basketball, hockey, athletics etc etc. Believe it or not, soccer is a relatively new introduction to private schools. Some of the more enlightened girls’ schools also offer Pilates, yoga and other exercise routines such as kickboxing.
FURTHER EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
When it comes to universities, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Stellenbosch all feature regularly in world university rankings. For those students who are happy to live outside Cape Town or Johannesburg, the Rhodes University and the University of Pretoria are also excellent choices.
Sadly, many of the universities in South Africa have experienced on campus violence over the last few years, with many students demanding free tertiary education. These violent protests show no sign of abating in the near future as South Africa just can’t afford to fund universities and colleges. These protests are also driving many academics away from the country.