Private schools in South Africa are losing learners to emigration

For every 10 learners leaving private schools before matric, two do so to leave the country, data from Advtech shows.

A large number of South African families are emigrating , seeking opportunities abroad, leaving behind a country mired in unemployment, endless political wrangling, and corruption that has hampered economic growth.

According to American think tank, Pew Research, at least 900,000 people born in South Africa were currently living in other countries as of 2017.

And learner data as provided by private school companies along with house-selling data from FNB, shows a quite a dramatic increase in emigration-related motivations.

According to the lender, emigration-driven sales now account for 14.2% of all sales, a big jump from 10% in 4Q18.

Removals firm, Elliott Mobility, said it facilitated 2,500 moves abroad in 2018, and is expecting an approximately 20% increase in 2019. Similarly, Stuttaford Van Lines pointed to a 15% increase in families emigrating in 2018.

Key among the reasons for people wanting to leave South Africa is a deterioration in sentiment, FNB said – exacerbated by things like the country’s power crisis, load shedding, and political instability.

Another most-cited reason for moving is family, the companies said, noting that emigrants are looking for a better quality of living, better healthcare, and better education.

Private schooling

The emigration trend is also clearly seen in the number of children who are being pulled out of private schools.

In its latest annual results, published in March 2019, Advtech noted an increase in the number of learners it has lost due to emigration and financial constraints.

According to the group, 979 learners left its schools explicitly due to emigration (3.7% of the starting total), while a further 1,880 learners had to leave due to financial troubles (7%). Both of these numbers were up from the year before.

Excluding matriculants that left, the group lost about 16% of its learner total during the year – however this was offset by 7,000 new additions, and 3,155 learners joining as part of the group’s acquisitions.

At the start of 2019, Advtech had 30,538 learners.


Listed education group Curro, also saw 5,954 – around 18% – of its learner base at the end of 2018 leave the private school group (excluding matriculants), however the group did not give a breakdown of reasons why the learners left.

BusinessTech reached out to the group for the reasons behind the departure, but it said it would not provide any further detail beyond what was published in its annual report.

Curro’s losses were offset by 12,757 learners who joined the group’s various schools, as well as 1,311 it gained through acquisitions, taking its total at the start of 2019 to 57,276 learners.


Read: AdvTech seals Monash acquisition

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Private schools in South Africa are losing learners to emigration