5 Years Later: 5 Lessons We Learned from Sending Our Kids to School in South Africa

school children in a school in Africa cheering for their house at swim gala

Despite fears of crime, the biggest fear for many South Africa-bound expats with children is whether they’re making a mistake with their choice of school. Of all the questions I get asked, school choice is always the one that seems to cause the most sleepless nights. Here is a look at the lessons we learned from sending our kids to school in South Africa (hint: they were fine).

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Does Recess Need Coaching? Not in South Africa!

South African school children at recess

My favorite time to walk over the leafy campus of Dainfern College was recess. There would be hundreds of kids milling about, with no teacher to be seen. No one seemed to care whether the kids used the time to eat their lunch or not. Boys would be running around barefoot, their uniforms disheveled, kicking soccer balls that would frequently hit unsuspecting bystanders.

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Everything You Need to Know About South African Schools

In order to make my readers' life - and mine! - a little bit easier, I thought I'd gather all my blog posts discussing South African schools in any way, shape, or form, into one tidy list to hand out henceforth. Bear in mind that I wrote these over the course of 4-5 years, and that my knowledge of the topic evolved over that time period. Still, this is a good starting point for new expats.

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Finishing Matric in South Africa – Then What?

I have written much about schools in South Africa. But what about higher education, i.e. going to college aka varsity? If you have high school age children and are moving to South Africa from abroad, or already have been living there and your children are approaching the end of their school career, it is most likely a topic that causes quite a bit of anxiety in you.

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How Do I Obtain or Renew a Study Permit for a South African School?

I was astounded how much discussion my recent blog post about the scarcity of space at Johannesburg private schools spurred. While I was aware that this was beginning to pose a problem for expats in South Africa, I didn’t know how dire the situation had already become.

 But it also prompted questions of a more technical nature concerning attendance at South African schools, and I’d like to highlight one such question from my Facebook Page and some answers here. The QUESTION:

Does anyone have any experience ... 

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I Can’t Find a Spot for My Child at a South African School

You know that I’m a big advocate for South African schools.  I think sending our children to Dainfern College versus the American International School was absolutely the right decision. However, just as my readers are starting to be convinced by those arguments and are inquiring at South African private schools for spots for their children, those schools are telling them more and more often that there is no space, and that the waiting list for a particular class is already 25 deep. It seems there is an extreme shortage of private school spots in Johannesburg. I don’t know how Cape Town fares in comparison. If you have a choice between those two cities, the school situation might be an important factor to consider. The good news is, this problem is not present at all grade levels. Anything from Grade Four upwards is not typically a problem, and especially high school (grades 8-12) is easy to get into. There are many more high schools than elementary schools, and because many South Africans send their children to a boarding school for high school, these spaces open up at the regular high schools so that they are quite happy to take on  new students. Even if you have, say, a 2nd grader with siblings in grade Four and Seven, then most likely the school will accommodate the 2nd grader because they like to fill the higher grades. However, if your oldest or only child is anywhere from grades 0-3, then most likely you will find it extremely difficult to secure a spot for them. Even if you’ve decided to send your kids to the American International School, you might face the same problem. American nationals have preference, but from what I’ve heard the space there is limited as well, so don’t assume that just because you’re Americans that your children are automatically admitted. If you are currently in the process of thinking about an assignment in South Africa, you need to address the school question right away, before you do anything else. Make a list of schools, and contact them as soon as you can to see if they have space. The earlier you can enroll your child, or at least put him or her on the waitlist, the better your chance of securing a spot. I’m sorry that I don’t have better news. I just wanted to make sure you understand how important it is to find a school in Johannesburg before you do anything else. Read More ››