[LISTEN] Education allocation must address school dropout

In this interview with Money Web, Merle Mansfield, Programme Director of the Zero Dropout Campaign, explains why Government need to address the high dropout rate when it comes to budget allocations for education.

“At the moment we have about a 57% survival rate in our school system, which means that 57% of learners who start school in Grade 1 in a particular year would finish twelve years later. And, that about 40% of kids are getting stuck in the system in cycles of repetition or are either dropping out entirely,” explains Mansfield.

She explains that the national obsession with the first day of school, and the matric exams neglects the journey in-between. As such issues of incredibly high repetition that lead to school dropout for example are swept under the rug. It also doesn’t investigate our poor foundation phase learning, with PIRLS revealing for example that that 81% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning in any language. “These are the real issues that we need to focus on in between these two end points,” says Mansfield.

As (re-)allocations and adjustments take place following the Minister’s Statement, Zero Dropout Campaign is calling for the Department of Basic Education to prioritise the following issues:

The expansion of Early Warning Systems and data administrators, which are crucial for detecting learners at risk of dropout early and activating support systems such as psychosocial services to help learners cope with emotional barriers that may interfere with their academic performance.

School and district-based support teams, tasked with providing learners with these psychosocial services, must be properly funded as they play an integral role in keeping learners on track to completing Grade 12.

Ring-fenced funding for literacy-related interventions and catch-up programmes.“President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet have in recent years repeatedly claimed that early grade reading is a priority for this administration. However, it is difficult to take these claims seriously until there are dedicated catch-up programmes and financial support for them in place.