Almost all South African children enrol in school, setting out on a journey that is intended to develop their social, emotional, cognitive, and academic abilities — and eventually lead to a matric qualification. But the path from starting Grade 1 to eventually completing Grade 12 is paved with obstacles: four out of 10 learners who start school will drop out before completing matric. Disruptions at home and at school can unsteady learners: some get stuck, some fall behind, and some fall through the cracks entirely. Covid-19 school closures, coupled with the economic effects of the pandemic, have both widened and deepened the cracks learners must traverse on the path to school completion. This publication looks at how Covid-19 has intensified vulnerabilities to school dropout. But it also explores how we can recover, strengthen, and build preparedness in our schooling system. This means bridging the gaps, strengthening the foundations, and guiding young people back on course, so that more learners are steadied and supported on their path to school completion.