AbstractDespite almost 20 years of democratic governance in South Africa, there is growing evidence that equitable access to quality education remains elusive for the majority of its children. In 2007, the Department of Education declared 40 per cent of schools in the country to be ‘no fee’ schools and, by 2011, 60 per cent of all schools had been designated as such. This article examines the introduction and the effects to date of the no fee schools policy, and assesses the progress of South Africa's undoubtedly pro‐poor education policies towards promoting equality in education and, above all, achieving equity of access to resource allocation. It discusses the main challenges and issues relating to the implementation of the no fee policy at provincial and school levels while also considering the efficacy of existing equitable funding instruments, and concludes with suggestions for how more effective and equitable access to quality education can be realized.

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