September 20, 2010 08:21
A growing number of Korean mothers are taking their children to study in South Africa, which has the advantage of being English-speaking but is less costly than the U.S. The number of study permits issued by the South African Embassy in Korea doubled from 226 in 2001 to 461 last year.
According to the Korean Embassy in South Africa, around 4,000 Koreans lived there as of May this year, a quarter of them believed to be teenage students and one or more members of their family.
The main reason Korean parents choose South Africa is the low price of education compared to other English-speaking countries.
A 47-year-old housewife took her teenage son and daughter to South Africa almost three years ago. "At first we thought about going to the U.S., but the cost would have been around W2-2.5 million (US$1=W1,174) per person a month," she said. "But here, that's enough for all of us to live for a month.”
She spends around W300,000 a month on tuition for both of her children there. "It's a little more expensive than Korea, but in South Africa we don't need to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of won a month on private crammers," she said. She added another benefit of studying in South Africa is the availability of a wide range of after-school activities.
A Korean woman who lives in Johannesburg said, "The high crime rate here actually helps the children study. We have to drive everywhere here, which means my teenage kids have to ask me to drive them, and that allows me to keep track of what they are doing."
Korean diplomats and corporate expats elsewhere in Africa also send their children to South African schools, which are said to be the best on the continent.
However, some Korean mothers say the lure of South Africa is disappearing. One woman who moved to Cape Town with her 20-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter said, "When we got here in 2005 a loaf of bread cost 4 rand (W640). Now it costs twice as much, and utility prices have risen more than 10 percent a year." Another Korean resident said, "I've seen a lot of Korean students who returned to Korea from South Africa and are having a tough time adjusting to the rigorous educational schedules there. In South Africa they're used to going home from high school at 2 to 3 p.m. every day."
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