Years of research into educational statistics have just produced the first comprehensive education atlas of South Africa, to be used by planners as they begin the urgent task of upgrading and restructuring resources at all levels of learning.
Everybody knows that there are vast educational disparities between races and regions in South Africa. Statistics abound. But this is the first time that detailed information, obtained by census district, has been collated and analysed to present a graphic map of educational inequality and areas of educational priority.
The Education Atlas of South Africa - the culmination of years of research by Dulcie Krige, Sandy Cairns, Bulelwa Makalima and Di Scott at the non-governmental research organisation, The Education Foundation - has just been published.
It aims to provide comprehensive and accessible data urgently needed by planners to implement new educational policies, and to open up and inform the education debate in South Africa.
The information collated is based on population censuses undertaken in South Africa and its former independent states in 1991, as well as statistics gathered by the Human Sciences Research Council. It includes demographic and economic data, to help identify areas of greatest general need.
It shows that east South Africa is far more densely settled than the west. There are large areas of the east where more than 99 per cent of people are black Africans and where the least skilled and poorest sections of society are concentrated.
Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are the poorest and most educationally disadvantaged provinces, while Gauteng and the Western Cape are the best off.
The former homelands and independent states, where population numbers are the greatest, have the lowest percentages of economically active people, the greatest levels of poverty - more than 73 per cent of people - and the highest percentage of very young people.
Five times more whites have degrees - 345,249 - than all other race groups combined. There are 31,238 blacks with degrees, 20,677 Indians and 13, 825 coloureds - despite the fact that the coloured population is 3.3 times larger than the Indian population.
There are extensive areas of the country where fewer than one in four black adults are literate and fewer than one in 20 have obtained their school leaving "matric" certificate. Only 8 per cent of black adults in the 25 to 64 age group have passed matric compared with 10 per cent of coloureds, per cent of Indians and 61 per cent of whites.
The adult black population is 43 per cent literate, having a "retained" literacy after seven years of schooling. More than half of coloured adults - 56 per cent - are literate, compared to 97 per cent of whites and 79 per cent of Indians.
Employment opportunities for matriculated blacks are much greater than for literate blacks who, interestingly, have a lower employment rate than semi-illiterate and illiterate blacks. In all, 73 per cent of blacks with matric are employed. Among whites, 79 per cent of adults who have a matric are employed. Matriculated coloureds have a high employment rate of 86 per cent, and 80 per cent of Indians.
"It is of great concern that most South Africans are undereducated and underprepared for full participation in social, economic and civic life. Adult Education provision is a priority," the Atlas says.