Education in South Africa is governed by the department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, and the department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for tertiary education and vocational training.
The DBE department deals with public schools, private schools (independent schools), early childhood development (ECD) centres, and special needs schools. The public schools and private schools comprise roughly 97% of schools in South Africa. The nine provinces in South Africa also have their own education departments that are responsible for implementing the policies of the national department, as well as dealing with local issues.
Most schools are either primary schools (grade R to 7) or secondary schools, also known as high schools (grades 8 to 12). Some home schools and private schools offer the option to complete an additional year after grade 12 (known as grade 13). The South African governmental school system does not have a grade 13, but it forms part of non-South African curriculums that are sometimes followed by private schools in South Africa.
Schools may not refuse admission to children who live in the immediate vicinity of the school. On average there are 30 learners per teacher. Schools in South Africa receive a grant from government for their operational costs, such as maintaining the grounds, administrative costs, salaries, books and educational materials, and extramural activities.
No child may be refused admission to a public school on grounds that constitute unfair discrimination including race‚ gender‚ disability‚ belief‚ culture‚ language‚ pregnancy or illness. Schools may not refuse entry to children or refuse to hand over report cards even if their parents neglect to pay the school fees, but schools are permitted to sue parents for non-payment of school fees.
Children at South African schools are usually required to wear school uniforms, which can be expensive and are not provided for free.
Section 10(1) the South African Schools Act provides that no person may administer corporal punishment at a school against a learner. A person who contravenes this provision is guilty of a criminal offence, and, if convicted, can receive a sentence that can be imposed for assault.