It is important to distinguish between fair and unfair discrimination in school admission policies. The South African Constitution prohibits unfair discrimination. Clause 29(3) of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions that do not discriminate on the basis of race. This would also include admissions policies that may be judged to be a “cover-up” for racial exclusion.

Moreover section 9 (3) and (4) of the Bill of Rights on Equality expands on discrimination by stating that neither the state nor any person may:

unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

In line with their distinctive mission, many independent schools do practice fair discrimination: e.g. a girls’ only school does not admit boys, while the Drakensberg Boys Choir School admits only boys with good singing voices and musical ability. Such distinctions between learners for admission are legitimate.

ISASA Policy FAQs October 2014
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