South Africa’s migration into private schooling

 More South Africans are digging deep into their pockets in search of quality education for their kids amid growing perceptions that public schooling has largely gone to the dogs.

A statement released by Curro Holdings, the JSE-listed private schooling company, came to show the march of private schooling into the big business league.

Curro said its learner population has increased by about 67% in 2013 when compared to last year. The total number of learners in classrooms amounted to 20 854 against the 12 500 at the beginning of last year. In 2011 Curro learners amounted to a total of 5 500.

According to Curro Holdings CEO, Chris van der Merwe, this is a clear indication of the success of Curro’s business model.

The group built five new schools last year, to bring the total number of schools under the Curro banner at the beginning of 2013 to 26. The group expects to build more than five new schools during the course of this year.

An overwhelming majority of South African learners remain within the public schooling system. According to the latest numbers of the department of education, South Africa has about 14 million pupils and I million students. These are spread across 35000 educational institutions manned by about 453000 teachers and lecturers. In this ecosystem there are about 1800 private schools and 115 private higher education institutions.

The private schooling sector is growing at astronomical levels as shown through the Currio lenses. Currio’s financial results for the six months ended June last year showed revenue increasing by 103% to R161.3 million. “This is mainly due to the significant increase in learner numbers and acquisitions”.

The group said the growing positive sentiment about the private school market was encouraging. “Curro’s management will continue to expand the business by means of organic and acquisitive growth in years to come. The R476 million that was raised through the rights issue and specific issue in July 2012 will be utilised for this purpose”.

Van der Merwe said “All five newly built schools opened successfully this year, with requirements for a new school of between 160 to 200 learners being exceeded.

“Curro Thatchfield in Centurion opened with some 700 learners, Curro Krugersdorp with 250 learners, Meridian Pinehurst with 540 learners and Curro Bloemfontein and Curro Century City each with about 300 learners,” Van der Merwe said.

The acquisition of Northern Academy, a private school in Polokwane with 4 000 learners, was announced in November last year with the aim to further strengthen and expand its interest in the community private school market. The school is expected to be incorporated in April this year, after the conclusion of final formalities.

Van der Merwe said the acquisition of Northern Academy is a very exciting acquisition for Curro and promises an important contribution to the group. The school, which offers private schooling from grades 1 to 12, has a proven academic record and achieved a pass rate of close to 100% in grade 12 last year.

Of the 21 Curro schools last year, 16 had grade 12 learners who wrote the 2012 final exams. This includes Northern Academy with 350 grade 12 learners for 2012, even though the school will only be incorporated in 2013.

This brought the total number of grade 12 learners who wrote exams last year to 885. Of these, 358 wrote the IEB exam with a 98,8% pass rate and 78% achieving university exemption. A further 527 learners wrote the National Certificate exam, with a pass rate of 93% and 70% achieving university exemption.

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