The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Section 29(3), allows anyone to establish an independent school:
Everyone has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions that:
- do not discriminate on the basis of race;
- are registered with the state;
- maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions.
Section 46,(3)(a) of the South African Schools Act, 1996 as amended; provides that: the standards to be maintained by such school will not be inferior to the standards in comparable public schools.
The South African Schools Act (SASA) identifies two kinds of schools in South Africa: public schools which are state owned and independent schools, which are owned by different kinds of legal entities.
Independent schools can also be sub-divided into two categories: subsidised Independent schools and non-subsidised schools.
Independent schools have to operate within the confines of the Constitution and all relevant National and Provincial legislation. However, critical to their independence is the freedom of a school to use its professional judgement to make decisions. These key characteristics ensure that schools have the freedom they require to be able to determine and deliver programmes of academic excellence to learners.
As an independent school you are allowed to have a distinctive mission and to enrol mission-appropriate learners, and while this could be termed as discrimination, it is seen as fair discrimination because you are upfront about it from the outset and have made it clear publicly. Christian schools vary between discipleship and evangelical schools. In discipleship schools only learners from Christian homes are enrolled and in evangelical schools learners are enrolled regardless of parental commitment to Christ. The most significant limitation on an independent school’s admissions policy is that no racial discrimination is allowed. (This would also include admissions policies that may be judged to be a cover-up for racial exclusion).
An independent school may not operate unless it is registered with the education department of the province in which it is situated. Any independent school that is registered with the Provincial Education Department (PED) and fulfils the requirements stipulated in the Norms and Standards for School Funding, 2006, is eligible for a state subsidy.
Independent schools that offer the curriculum leading to the National Senior Certificate are obliged to be accredited with Umalusi and to further comply with the monitoring and evaluation requirements of Umalusi.
National Christian School affiliated bodies:
- Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI)
- Accelerated Education Enterprises (AEE)
- Instituut vir Christelike Onderwys (ICO)