According to a report compiled by the department of basic education and released in 2007, there were 30 117 operational schools.
In a report compiled in 2009, the number of schools had declined to 25 827. Only Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had shown an increase.
The most affected areas were townships and rural areas.
The main reason cited for the closures was the decline in pupil numbers as a result of poor performance of township and rural schools.
This has sparked a migration to better-performing schools in towns and cities.
Provinces which were expected to close schools this year included the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.
The Eastern Cape education department had identified more than 500 schools with less than 100 pupils each, while the Northern Cape would shut down 25 primary and secondary schools by March.
Mpumalanga would shut down 14 and the Western Cape nine.
Basic Education Department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said the shutting down of schools was a provincial “prerogative”.
He denied that the trend of closing schools was a “national crisis”.
“Parents are voting to pull their children out of under-performing township schools to better schools in the cities,” Lesufi said.
According to the report, the Gauteng education department had reported a backlog of 120 schools, but had to close 46 schools, according to provincial spokesperson Charles Phahlane.
Eastern Cape education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said managing over 500 “sub-optimal” schools would in the long run be “untenable”.
He said the leading cause of pupil migration was the “incessant under-performance by rural schools”.
Limpopo, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal could not provide details of the state of schools because their “technical staff were still on holidays”.
In the Northern Cape, the Gaetsewe district was expected to shut down 25 schools by the end of March and North West said there were 24 unused schools in the province.
In Mpumalanga, 14 schools in the Mkhondo and Nkomazi municipalities would be closed to make way for two new “no-fee” boarding schools.
The Western Cape had shut down three schools for “zero learner enrolment” while nine were closed because they were built on private land. — Sapa