Zero Dropout Campaign
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Our Campaign

Who we are

Our goal is to halve South Africa’s dropout rate by 2030 by spurring individual and collective ownership of the problem. We began as a research project funded by the DG Murray Trust in 2015, but we’ve since grown into a national advocacy campaign with two dedicated programmes of action and a national network of implementing partners.

As a knowledge hub, we have collaborated with a number of non-profit organisations (NPOs) to test models of intervention to prevent dropout. In this way, we are focused on identifying and demonstrating what it takes to help learners complete Grade 12 by developing policy options at a macro level as well as on-the-ground interventions.

We have taken a proactive approach to addressing dropout by promoting interventions with a track record of success. A prime example is our Reading for Meaning programme, which focuses on a child’s learning needs rather than their age or grade. In an effort to drive a whole-of-society approach to reducing the rate of dropout, our outreach teams are also mobilising a network of educators, parents and learners to work together to find solutions to the everyday issues driving the dropout rate.

The True Matric Pass Rate of the 2008 Cohort

(% of Grade 1 Learners who make it to Grade 12 and beyond)

100% starts school


60% write matric


37% pass matric


13% go to university


What we do

Our Challenge

We need to change the perception that school dropout is a normal occurrence by demonstrating that it’s possible to stop it from happening. Despite South Africa’s large investment in basic education, around 40% of Grade 1 learners will exit the schooling system before reaching Grade 12. Many will remain stuck in poverty and unemployment as young people are 8% more likely to find employment if they have a matric certificate.

The first step towards addressing school dropout is to prioritise it as a national problem both at the decision-making level and at a societal level. The fact that many children leave school without any qualification is not yet firmly acknowledged by all levels of government to be a problem. As a consequence, there are no specific systems or policies in place to address it.

Policy changes alone are not enough; we also need to facilitate national ownership of the problem by giving parents, educators and learners the tools they need to implement solutions.

Our Priorities

  • We want to increase national awareness about the problem of school dropout and spur action towards addressing it.
  • Through our programmes, we want to show what it takes to help children make it through school by ensuring they can read for meaning.
  • We are mobilising a network of schools committed to work together to reduce dropout.

Our Funders

DG Murray Trust

Being a long-time contributor to education projects in South Africa, it was with growing concern about the high rate of school dropout, that the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) embarked on a mission to find the levers that will help turn this situation around. Research revealed that school dropout should not be understood as a single event, but rather as a process of disengagement — a cumulative, multidimensional occurrence caused by the convergence of various factors over time. Working with a number of non-profit organisations (NPOs) with experience in this field, the next step was to test models of intervention to prevent dropout. The Zero Dropout Campaign developed out of this initial exploratory work and launched in 2017.

Our Implementing Partners

Community Action Partnership

Community Action Partnership: An initiative that mobilises the community of Swellendam to tackle school dropout as a collective.

Masibumbane Development Organisation

Masibumbane Development Organisation: Using early warning systems to support and respond to young people at risk of dropping out.

Khula Development Group

Khula Development Group: Creating opportunities for psychosocial support and academic catch-up in schools.

The National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW)

The National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW): Using Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCWs) at schools to provide lower-cost psychosocial support.

new leaders foundation

The DDD Programme is currently NLF’s flagship programme. The programme has been led by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in partnership with the Department of Basic Education. The aim of the programme is to improve learner outcomes by improving the way key educational data is collected and used by officials in the education system to support schools and teachers more effectively.