Education plays a key role in building the foundation of a child’s life after school. However, the Zero Dropout Campaign has painted a bleak picture, following its presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.
Presenting its research to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on 6 October 2020, the organisation said they are concerned about the current situation in the number of school dropouts.
According to the Zero Dropout Campaign, approximately 40% of learners who start school in Grade 1, will leave the school system before matriculating.
What makes it worse, the organisation explains there is no proper data tracking and monitoring to accurately reflect the extent of the problem.
Looking at the problem, Merle Mansfield, Programme Director of the Zero Dropout Campaign, says school closures, together with the economic impact of the lockdown, have placed learners already at risk of dropping out of school into deeper financial, psychosocial and academic distress.
She stresses that now more than ever, we need to build resilience into our schooling system.
Mansfield highlights the first step in addressing the issue, involves factoring the issue into policy and planning frameworks. As well as setting targets for dropout reduction.
She elaborates, “If we set targets for dropout, we will be able to hold national and provincial departments accountable for dropout statistics and the effectiveness of their interventions.”
Through shining a light on dropout at the highest level, Mansfield says officials can set a cohesive plan into action. This will in turn lead to improved education outcomes for the system as a whole.
Additionally, the presentation highlighted that one of the best ways to prevent children from dropping out of school; is through effective tracking of learner progress.
This will alert education officials when learners are at risk. Academic results, behaviour problems and chronic absenteeism should also all be tracked. A national psycho-social support strategy was also recommended.
Mansfield points out that South Africa’s education system already has relatively strong information management systems. These systems include the School Administration Management System (SA-SAMS), the Learner Unit Record Tracking System (LURITS), and the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS).
However, she points out these systems are not used effectively to track and prevent dropout. This is apparently due to the type of information collected, as well as the way in which the necessary data is inputted and presented.
Mansfield feels officials need to track learner-level data that can be incorporated into an Early Warning System (EWS). But in order for an EWS to work well, she says officials need to consistently track absenteeism, behaviour changes, and academic performance for each learner over their entire school career.
Adding to this, the Department of Basic Education informed the committee that leaners’ repeating a grade have an impact on the number of dropouts. According to the department, repeating a grade can have such an impact on a child’s life, it can discourage learners from continuing.
South Africa currently has a 30% grade repetition rate.
The chairperson for the Portfolio of Basic Education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, is now appealing for greater collaboration and communication between the Department of Basic Education and non-profit organisations (NPOs) working in the sector.
She says, “It is important for both parties to sit and engage first as to how the research can benefit all South African learners.”
What are your thoughts on the matter? What steps do you feel need to be taken to ensure children do not drop out of school? Also, do you believe all the responsibility should be put on governmental officials? Or do you think parents also play a key role? Share your thoughts and views with us in the comment section below.
Author: Quinton Boucher
Edited: Calvin Swemmer