Black Education And Training

Twenty five years into the democratic freedom enshrined by our Constitution, it is unusual to come across a statute such as the Education and Training Act 1979.1 Its stated purpose was – and, still is – to ‘provide for the control of education of Blacks by the Department of Education and Training’, and for matters incidental thereto.

The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Education,2 unless its administration has been assigned to provinces. In that case, the Provincial MEC responsible for education will carry the can.

A. Registration of non-public schools

  1. Any person who wishes to provide education to a Black person, except at a public school,3 must register with the Department of Education.4 It is an offence to contravene this provision – and the members of the governing body, and the owner, and the educator responsible are also liable.5

B. School attendance

  1. Any person who, as a condition for admission to a school situated on a farm, or as consideration (i.e. payment) for attending such school, requires a child to render any sort of service, whether for remuneration or otherwise, commits an offence.6

  2. It is an offence to refuse or neglect to furnish information to a school attendance officer, or an educator, in the performance of his duties.7

  3. It is also an offence to hinder or obstruct a school attendance officer or an educator in the performance of his duties.8

  4. It is an offence, without permission of the Director-General, to enter any school grounds or premises unless such person is:

    • a pupil, teacher or employee of the school;9
    • the Minister, the Director-General or any officer or educator authorised by him;10
    • a member of the council, committee, board or other body established for the school;11
    • a parent, if in connection with the education of his child;12
    • a visitor from another school for the purposes of attending or participating in a sports or other school activity;13 or
    • a member of the community attending a particular school activity at the invitation of the principal, or attending an approved educational programme.14

C. Inspection of schools

  1. The Director-General (or any officer or educator authorised by him) can hold an inspection or an inquiry in regard to:
    • the admission and dismissal of any pupil;
    • the provision of education at any school;
    • the guidance and care of any pupil;
    • the application and implementation of approved psychological and standardised tests or questionnaires for a pupil;
    • the buildings, equipment, stores and finances of any school; or
    • any other matter deemed necessary to be investigated.

    It is an offence to interfere with, or hinder or disturb anyone carrying out duties for these purposes.15

  1. The statute is not mentioned in the insightful work sub-titled ‘What’s wrong with South Africa’s schools and how to fix it’ - The toxic mix: What is wrong by Graeme Block (Tafelberg, 2009). 

  2. Probably the Act’s most important provision – criminalizing the failure of a parent or custodian to ensure that a child attends school, following a warning by the Department – is inchoate, or ineffectual, because no specified ages and areas, as required, have been declared by the Minister. See Section 37(1) of the Act. 

  3. A public school is one established by the Government. 

  4. There are certain exceptions: theological colleges and correspondence colleges, for example, are exempted from the requirement. 

  5. Section 8(5) read with section 8(1). 

  6. Section 37(3)(a)(ii). 

  7. Section 37(3)(c). 

  8. Section 37(3)(c). 

  9. Section 40(1)(a) read with section 40(2). 

  10. Section 40(1)(b) read with section 40(2). 

  11. Section 40(1)(c) read with section 40(2). 

  12. Section 40(1)(d) read with section 40(2). 

  13. Section 40(1)(e) read with section 40(2). 

  14. Section 40(1)(f) read with section 40(2). 

  15. Section 33(2) read with section 33(1).