How has the lockdown affected our learners?

Khanya is 18 years old and in grade 11 at Khayelihle High School in Umbumbulu, Kwa-Zulu Natal. He tells us that he wants to study to become a doctor when he finishes school.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) recently released concerning statistics about the country’s dropout crisis, worsened by the Covid-19 school closures[1]

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.

According to projections in KwaZulu-Natal alone, 38 541 children in Grade 7 and 18 708 in Grade 12 might not return to school this year.

School closures carry high social and economic costs, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and increases the risk of learners dropping out. The longer a child is away from the classroom and loses that important attachment to schooling, the less likely they are to return, especially if the connection was tenuous or strained to begin with.

We spoke to learners in KwaZulu-Natal to find out how they’ve been affected

“I was trying to adapt. I was trying to cover the time we lost. But since we are closing now I’m not sure whether I will be able to get back on track again” – Khanya, 18.

“Our teachers were trying to send us some of the activities while we were at home to practice” – Lethuxolo, 17.

“For me to be able to cope, I used books…like life sciences books and studied by myself. It helped me get my mind back and carry on” – Owami, 15.

Things we can do to help our learners stay on track and keep them there

📌 Schools must track absenteeism, behavioural changes and academic performance to identify learners at risk of dropping out.

📌 Put a workable referral system in place so that at-risk learners get the necessary support they need, such as mentoring, counselling or tutoring.

📌 Ensure schools are easy access points for psychosocial support services.

📌 Get the buy-in of primary caregivers by helping them to understand their role in a child’s learning journey.

📌 Accelerated catch-up programmes for those who were unable to access distance learning options (marginalised girls may have been worse affected).