The South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 established a national schooling system and recognised two categories of schools: public and independent. Public schools are state controlled and independent schools are privately governed. All private schools were included into the independent school category.

Within the public school category, SASA created a sub-category of “public schools on private property” comprising state schools on private land owned by religious bodies, farmers, mines and forestry companies.

The South African definition of independent schools is a narrow one compared to other developing countries, especially as it does not include the “public schools on private property”.

In terms of Section 29 of the Constitution of South Africa, everyone has the right to establish, at his or her own expense, independent educational institutions.

These institutions may not discriminate on the basis of race, must be registered with the state, and must maintain standards not inferior to those of comparable public institutions. State subsidies to independent institutions are permitted, but not guaranteed.

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