THE Department of Basic Education is concerned about the high-rate of school dropout projections anticipated for 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this year.
The school dropout projections were presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education by DBE Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule and Director-General Mathanzima Mweli.
The presentation by basic education department showed projected dropouts in KwaZulu Natal, by far the largest province in the country in terms of numbers, could be around 38 541 children in Grade 7 and 18 708 in Grade 12.
Limpopo has the lowest projections on dropouts, sitting at 87 for Grade 7 and 60 for Grade 12.
The Western Cape has a projected percentage dropout rate of between 5 and 15% for Grade 7.
This would be between 4 600 and 13 900 of its 90 000 pupils in Grade 7.
The department said it was especially concerned about KwaZulu Natal where they project dropouts.
As much as the figures are alarming, Mweli said that this does not necessarily mean that all these children are not getting an education.
“What we usually encourage provinces to do is to take the numbers of those who attend school, and then link it to the numbers of those who are at home, with comorbidities who are doing virtual learning, and those at home for home education and then the variation between all those then gives you a sense of the projection of the dropout rate,” said Mweli.
According to Equal Education’s Co-Head of Research, Roné McFarlane, many parents are worried about the spread of the virus.
“Parent members in the Western Cape shared their concerns about their children’s safety from Covid-19, especially in schools where basic safety measures were not in place,” says McFarlane.
McFarlane says: “Before Covid-19 we were already faced with a situation where over the years 2014 to 2018, around 50 per cent of all 22 to 25-year-olds didn’t have a matric qualification.”
While many learners are happy to be back at school, they are bracing themselves for heavy workloads.
“The pressure is especially acute for matric learners, some of whom we know have dropped out as a result,” explains McFarlane.
“It is crucial that government launches a concerted effort to contact learners who are at risk of dropping out and encourage them to return to school or continue learning from home with the support of the school.”
(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)