SA has 'lost its compass'
Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel has questioned parents' involvement in their children's education.
Manuel spoke at the launch of the "SA Child Gauge 2012", a report on children released by the University of Cape Town.
The report says South Africa's children live in "unequal worlds", 18 years into democracy.
"Recent events of the non-delivery of textbooks to [Limpopo] school children, dumping of textbooks and barring of children from attending schools by parents in parts of our country [are] a vivid demonstration... of the journey ahead. These events by parents and people in positions of authority are an indication of how we have lost our compass," said Manuel.
"How did parents not know that their children have not received fresh textbooks for the new school year? Do parents, actually, keep track of whether their children have access to books?
"Where were religious leaders when parents turned against their children in areas such as Olifantshoek and in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district and deprived them of education, their ticket to a better life?"
The report found that the poorest 10% of the country's people received less than 1% of the national income, while the richest 10% received 57% of the income.
It also found that 60% of the country's children lived in households with an income of less than R575 a month.
Racial disparities also exist, with 67% of African children living below the poverty line, compared with 2% of white children.
The apartheid legacy also still has a hold on children. About 43% of young children live in poor conditions in the country's former homelands.
The report found that difficulties in accessing birth certificates and IDs prevented many children from getting child support grants before their first birthdays, when nutritional support is most critical.
"About 44% of healthcare expenditure goes to the private sector, yet it services only 15% of the population," reads the report.
Many children rely on public healthcare, which employs only 31% of the country's doctors, 25% of specialists and 46% of professional nurses. The situation is even worse in rural areas as only 12% of doctors and 19% of nurses work there.
The report also found that though the government spent a lot of money on education, "outcomes were persistently poor and highly unequal across schools".
Said Manuel: "The work we are doing in the National Planning Commission is about the next generation. It is about addressing the forms of inequality that run all the way through South African society, and that, in many cases, affects children, especially in vulnerable and rural communities."