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


This is how champion teachers are helping learners return to school in 2022

Tefo Gaebetse and Frederick Ocansey — Champion Teachers in the Yethu network in the Northern Cape have prevented not one but four learners from dropping out of school since starting their Yethu Club in 2021. Yethu is guided by the principle that ‘zero dropout can be achieved if we act together’. Gaebetse and Ocansey have put […]

Posted on 4 March 2022


Champion Teachers and their 2022 resolutions: Getting the basics right

Dropout prevention has no silver bullets or a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, preventing dropout requires that many role-players work together to create systems of support around our learners. While the burden of preventing dropout cannot fall on educators alone, they play a crucial role in preventing dropout. Their proximity to learners makes them well placed to […]

Posted on 17 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


Individual actions add up: Champion Teachers have the power to prevent dropout

Tefo Gaebetse and Frederick Ocansey — Champion Teachers in the Yethu network — have supported two learners to return to class after starting their Yethu Club. School dropout is a complex issue with no easy fix. There are no silver bullets to complex problems, but individuals can make a difference when empowered with the right […]

Posted on 12 November 2021


Spotting the warning signs of disengagement: Champion Teachers are attentive and responsive to learners’ needs

Zandisiwe Cetywayo — a Champion Teacher in the Yethu network — is on the lookout for the warning signs of disengaged behaviour. Economic exclusion, exposure to violence and poor nutrition are some of the challenges of growing up in poverty in South Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the vulnerability of many learners living in […]

Posted on 20 October 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


Giving communities a voice: Yethu Clubs speak up

Siphamandla Ngwenya is rallying his community to improve school culture and reduce dropout. A child’s neighbourhood can significantly impact their school experience. In South Africa, it’s not unheard of that children would skip school because of crime, gangsterism or street protests in their neighbourhoods. Connecting with supportive community members can help build a sense of […]

Posted on 1 September 2021


Starting a Yethu Club: getting communities involved in preventing dropout

Tefo Gaebetse is part of the first cohort of Champion Teachers joining Yethu Network of Schools. Poverty and inequality are the underlying drivers of dropout and a child’s neighbourhood can significantly impact their experience of school. This is true for rural and urban communities, particularly where school dropout is normalised and becomes an intergenerational issue. […]

Posted on 26 August 2021


Rising to the challenge: teaching during a pandemic

Nomfundo Khambule is helping learners to feel safe, access a warm meal, and stay connected to school. Dropout is currently three times pre-pandemic levels, with the Covid-19 pandemic worsening the disruptions that would typically cause a learner to dropout.  When schools reopened after a protracted closure last year, many learners did not return to class. […]

Posted on 6 August 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


Youth voices: this is how a champion teacher changed my life

The reality is that many learners can struggle for years to catch up with their peers. These learners often don’t have the foundational literacy and numeracy skills essential for academic success. Without the foundational reading skills to grasp the curriculum, many learners become disengaged and drop out before completing matric. In South Africa, eight out […]

Posted on 25 June 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


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


The value of tracking absenteeism

One of the most important changes we can make in our collective effort to reduce school dropout is to start keeping better records about our learners. By tracking individual learners’ absenteeism, academic performance and behaviour, we can better understand their struggles and pathways through school. This will allow us to identify learners at risk of […]

Posted on 1 December 2020


How can we support our teachers to prevent dropout? Here’s what we’ve learnt.

There are numerous inspiring stories of educators making profound contributions in their student’s lives, despite working in difficult circumstances. In the book, Great South African Teachers, the authors came up with seven profiles of inspirational teachers based on accounts from former learners. The authors explained that it’s often teachers who go beyond the call of duty in class, and after hours, who are the most inspirational.

Posted on 23 September 2020