Call to address drastic learner dropout rate

During a National Assembly committee briefing on Tuesday, the Department of Basic Education data revealed that at least 400 000 children who started Grade 1 in 2011(1 177 089) did not make it to Grade 12 (775 630) in 2022.

Numbers reported for dropout rates in 2021, when Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule briefed the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), showed that at least 200 000 had dropped out of school.

In the same year, the National Income Dynamics Study –Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram) study indicated that an additional 500 000 pupils, aged 7 to 17, dropped out of school during the pandemic, increasing from 230 000 pre-pandemic.

Zero Dropout Campaign Director, Merle Mansfield said they had long advocated for “regular and robust research” to monitor and address dropout rates.

“In our experience, dropout is rarely the result of a single event or issue but rather an intersection of socio-economic push and pull factors such as social injustices, education-related access and expenses, and/or domestic difficulties that force learners out of school. Our education system would benefit hugely from collecting accurate, detailed, and regular information about schools and learners. Collecting the right types of data over time can help us to better understand the needs in our education system, design better policy and programming, and track both learner and policy progress. One of the key improvements in data management Zero Dropout Campaign is currently advocating is the implementation of unique learner identifying numbers that would allow longitudinal tracking of a learners’ journey through school,” she said.

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