The article assesses the damaging effects of the turn towards privatisation in education in South Africa on public schools and on education for children from low income houeseholds. In particular it notes that this turn promotes inequality and inculcates neo-liberal values of individualism and competition. The privatisation of education in SA is becoming a multi-million dollar opportunity for individuals and corporations and is antipathetic to the constitutional guarantee of free public education for all. The article shows how the 'reformers' subvert the democratic purposes of education, emphasising instead an instrumentalist view of education as a means to promote economic growth.