Protracted school closures can lead to an increase in learner dropout, which is why we are urging non-profit organisations (NPOs) to revise their dropout preventative strategies to respond to the long-term effects of the lockdown. We also urge education officials to put measures in place to address learner disengagement, considering many are falling behind with their schoolwork.
“News reports about a spike in domestic violence complaints suggests that children in troubled homes are in need of psychosocial support services during the lockdown,” says Merle Mansfield, Programme Director of the Zero Dropout Campaign.
Mansfield says that a lack of psychosocial support mechanisms, coupled with a convergence of push and pull factors in a child’s home and school environment over time, may cause them to drop out of school.
“In the absence of mentors, role models and tutors, at-risk learners simply don’t have access to support structures that would help them overcome their learning hurdles,” she adds.
The Zero Dropout Campaign supports four NPO implementing partners in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape who have rolled out dropout prevention strategies in schools.
The “check and connect” model pairs disengaged learners with caring mentors. “Another one of our implementing partners uses the “dropout catchers” model in which community members visit learners at home whenever they’re absent from school,” says Mansfield.
In light of the lockdown, these strategies have been urgently adjusted.
“We encourage NPOs to sustain contact with learners during the lockdown by using phone calls or WhatsApp groups where applicable to create supportive spaces,” she says.
NPOs should leverage their community connections by asking them to check in with children at home and report suspected abuse to crisis helplines.
“It’s important that communities take collective ownership of the problem of dropout by creating supportive networks to help learners during this time,” Mansfield concludes.
For more information or to arrange telephonic and Skype interviews, contact Zero Dropout Communications Lead Rahima Essop.