The Bank predicted that South Africa’s economic growth — which the National Treasury has estimated at 0.7 percent for 2018 – would accelerate to 1.3 percent in 2019 and 1.7 percent the year after, driven by the implementation of structural reforms announced last year.

The education policy, announced by former president Jacob Zuma in December 2017, would effectively give free learning to 90 percent of academically eligible students, to meet the national goal of doubling post school education and training (PSET) enrollment by 2030.

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But the plan would exert pressure on an already stretched fiscus, limiting South Africa’s ability to both expand enrollment in institutions of higher learning and improve the quality of education, the World Bank added.

The strain would be equivalent to about one percentage point of gross domestic product, leaving fewer public resources to increase admission capacity without compromising education quality, said World Bank South Africa program leader Sébastien Dessus.

“Nonetheless this constraint should not deter this objective if difficult but necessary trade-offs are made,” Dessus added.

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For South Africa’s economy to grow sustainably faster, it would be necessary to address its skills gap, which perpetuated inequality and fuelled policy uncertainty, the World Bank said.

It said the country could increase college enrollments more rapidly and reduce inequality faster by rebalancing budgetary resources and policy reform attention towards interventions that improved the quality of education.

– African News Agency (ANA)