RETHINK school dropout: What does the research teach us?

It is vital that we approach the issue of school dropout with openness and curiosity, paying attention not only to what the research says but to the lived experience of those in our education sector.  There are many stereotypes and preconceptions surrounding school dropout, such as “children drop out of school because they are lazy” […]

Posted on 21 August 2023


OPINION: A reflection on boys’ disengagement from school

After more than a decade of working with schoolboys, I’ve learnt that mutual trust lies at the heart of whether boys stay in, and are enabled to succeed at, school. Between 2008 and 2017, I served as CEO of Community Keepers, a non-profit organisation offering therapeutic counselling and psychosocial support in 29 schools across Cape Town. Boys could report to our offices themselves, or be referred by teachers or parents. It became apparent that the young boys walking into our therapy rooms simply did not trust adults because of their past experiences.

Posted on 4 April 2022


OPINION: Reimagining a schooling culture of care

Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, there have been renewed calls to reimagine education. In doing so, we must begin to engage with school dropout as a complex gendered phenomenon. Reimagining education requires us to shed unhelpful categories and seek new and inclusive frames, categories and ways of thinking, as we make sense of, and tackle, the country’s school dropout crisis.

Posted on 3 February 2022


What does the matric pass rate actually tell us about the health of South Africa’s schooling system?

The annual matric pass rate is traditionally considered a measure of the health of our schooling system. This statistic is an important indicator for the basic education sector, but it does not tell us about learners’ pathways through school from Grade 1 to matric. The matric pass rate only tells us about the percentage of […]

Posted on 19 January 2022


Everyone has the right to basic education, but administrative roadblocks are hampering access

Getting to the end of your schooling career and finishing your matric exams can be both rewarding and exciting. As things stand, the National Senior Certificate (NSC) is the only widely recognised school-level qualification in South Africa. Completing matric unlocks opportunities for further study or employment. But it’s no secret that learners in South Africa […]

Posted on 14 December 2021


One in three pregnant girls drop out, but it doesn’t have to be this way

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has released new statistics on underage pregnancies, which shows a rise in deliveries since 2017. In Parliament this week, DBE officials announced that one in three girls between 10 and 19 years leave school after becoming pregnant.

Posted on 10 September 2021


OPEN LETTER: Civil society calls on Department of Basic Education (DBE) to coordinate an urgent and sustained dropout prevention plan

Covid-19 school closures coupled with the economic shocks of the pandemic have exacerbated a dropout crisis long in the making. Now, more than ever, we need a coordinated national dropout prevention plan and an accelerated learning strategy attuned to the diverse needs of learners, particularly for literacy and numeracy.

Posted on 1 September 2021


Learners are disappearing from our education system

Until recently dropout wasn’t spoken about much, at least not on a national level.  That was until the Covid-19 pandemic began to change our lives.  When schools reopened, many teachers were left wondering why their learners were not returning, and for the first time in years, typically overcrowded classrooms were shrinking. Nomfundo Khambule, a teacher […]

Posted on 2 August 2021


Dropout is everyone’s problem: reducing dropout is good for South Africa’s economic health

Dropout is at its highest level in 20 years. An additional 500 000 learners have dropped out of school during the pandemic, according to new data from the NIDS-CRAM survey. Many young people who exit the schooling system without completing matric struggle to find decent jobs, and only 1 % […]

Posted on 15 July 2021


OPINION: Time to shake up the way we teach with a truly learner-centred approach

By now, South Africa’s literacy crisis is common knowledge. The 2016 PIRLS test results found that eight out of ten Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. The drastic implications of this national failure are most acutely felt at the Intermediate phase of our schooling system. The demands facing Grade 4, 5 and 6 learners, who must suddenly contend with large amounts of information — all in English — without the requisite foundational skills to do so, are often too challenging to cope with.

Posted on 26 May 2021


NIDS-CRAM findings reinforce the need for a national catch-up plan

The results of Wave 4 of the National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) were released this month. The findings of the survey show how disrupted schooling has affected access to school meals, learning trajectories, and gaps in learning.

Posted on 25 May 2021


OPINION: Imagining alternatives to the existing promotion and progression policy

By Nicci Hayes, Centre for Social Development at Rhodes University Our current system of promotion and progression in South Africa — though well-intentioned — has had negative consequences for teaching and learning, specifically for children in some of the country’s most impoverished communities. During my three decades as an educator in the Eastern Cape, I saw first-hand […]

Posted on 30 March 2021


OPINION: Why expanding second chance pathways to matriculation shouldn’t require second thought

After the yearly celebrations at the release of matric results, it’s crucial that we focus on the young people who didn’t reach matric, failed their examinations, or need to improve their marks. A matric certificate has a lot of value in enabling young people to unlock work opportunities and to access further education and training. In the absence of any other school-leaving certificate, a matric is currently the only signalling tool for employers to assess competencies and skills for those who do not complete any post-school studies[…]

Posted on 12 March 2021


VIDEO: Moving from disruption to recovery

Before the pandemic, around 40% of learners who started Grade 1 dropped out before completing matric. So, for many learners, disruptions to schooling are nothing new. But in 2020, things got worse. The type of disruptions that usually lead to disengagement and dropout were amplified by the pandemic. And when schools reopened, about 15% of […]

Posted on 22 February 2021


OPINION: We urgently need to address the challenge of school dropout

The Preamble to our Constitution states that we, the people of South Africa, will work together to create a society in which we ‘free the potential of each person’. It positions the collective potential and capabilities of our citizens as a critical resource to the success in the developmental challenges we face. The reality is, due to the state of education in our country, much of this potential is squandered each year.

Posted on 18 February 2021


OPINION: Covid-19 and repetition

The past year will be remembered as the year of Covid. For children, the pandemic brought with it lockdowns and school closures, and when schools reopened, most children could only attend on alternating days or weeks. As a result, far less teaching, and consequently, far less learning took place. There was also probably much forgetting.

Posted on 18 February 2021


VIDEO: Using data to reduce dropout

South Africa simply does not have the right types of records (datasets) to measure and monitor school dropout properly. While there are several datasets tracking matric exam results, annual school surveys, and master school lists, this information is only at the ‘aggregate’ level, not at the level of individual learners. Learner-level information could help us […]

Posted on 6 October 2020


How has the lockdown affected our learners?

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) recently released concerning statistics about the country’s dropout crisis, worsened by the Covid-19 school closures. On 1 September, officials from DBE told Members of Parliament (MPs) that they are now tracking absenteeism rates at schools to get a better sense of how many learners are likely to drop out.

Posted on 2 September 2020


The cost of the Covid-19 school closures and its impact on children — a new study by RESEP

A research paper from the University of Stellenbosch has recommended all children be allowed to return to schools and Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) without delay. Schools and ECD centres were closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The decision preceded the commencement of a hard lockdown in March. Academics Servaas van der Berg […]

Posted on 16 June 2020


What if your school doesn’t offer classes beyond Grade 9?

Imagine that you are learner living in a rural village in South Africa. You dream of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, and moving to the city. Before you can do all that, you must first complete high school. You wake up each morning at the crack of dawn to prepare for a long walk […]

Posted on 13 June 2020