The Covid-19 pandemic had negative implications on the Education sector as school going children lost more than 54% of learning time due to rotational attendance, sporadic school closures and days off for specific grades. This further emphasised the challenge of learner school dropouts in South Africa.
In 2021, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 400 000 to 500 000 learners dropped out of school over a 16-month period, and this number grew to 750 000 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is most likely referring to children living in informal urban and rural settings, with household poverty also playing a critical role, indicated UNICEF.
During a National Assembly committee briefing, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) data revealed that at least 400 000 children who started Grade 1 in 2011 did not make it to Grade 12 in 2022.
Some experts in this sector have shown great concern and have also called on the government to intervene soonest.
In an interview, Director at the Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa, Hendrick Makaneta has shared:
We call on the government to do something about it, including to ensure that learners are able to create a future for themselves.
Makaneta also advised teachers in public schools to commit to resolving this issue as this is where the school dropout crisis is more prevalent.
In some reports, it has been stated that the majority of learners who are affected by this crisis are in the Further Education and Training (FET) phase. Grades that fall under the FET phase range from grade 10 to grade 12, and these are learners provided with education and training that is more inclined to career oriented education.
Some of the contributing factors to learners dropping out of school include poverty, child-headed families, and early pregnancies.
Although high dropout rates at South African schools continue to be a concern, the DBE is also playing its role in making sure that this issue is addressed.
What are the effects of learners dropping out of school?
Individuals dropping out of school will be faced with limited employment opportunities and earning potential, leading to a lower quality of life.
It can also negatively impact their health, as individuals with lower levels of education tend to have poorer health outcomes.
For society, high rates of school dropout can lead to increased crime rates, decreased economic productivity, and reduced social cohesion.
It is crucial to address the root causes of school dropout and provide support and resources to help learners stay in school and succeed.