Number of school drop outs in Western Cape during the Covid-19 pandemic is unknown
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Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has not been able to determine the number of learners who have dropped out of school in the province since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes as the SA Federations of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it was deeply concerned about the overwhelming dropout rate in schools, mainly due to Covid-19 related complications and the socio-economic consequences of poverty exacerbated by the pandemic.
WCED spokesperson Millicent Merton said determining dropout rates has been made difficult by last year’s phased in return to school of learners, rotational timetables, and the concession available to parents to have their children learn from home.
However, she said the department worked hard to retain as many learners in the system as possible.
Congress of SA Students (Cosas) National Convenor Katleho Mangoejane said they had noted the disruptions that have been affecting education for the past few weeks.
"This has been proven to be a serious problem as many learners failed or dropped out in 2020 due to the disruptions of the academic calendar and difficulty of catching up on the syllabus," said Mangoejane.
Vanessa Le Roux, founder of Parents for Equal Education SA (Peesa), said she doubted there was an overwhelming dropout rate in the province because schools operated on a rotational plan.
Le Roux said the province was just plagued by the overwhelming rate of unplaced learners.
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said according to the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS–CRAM), about 750 000 learners between the ages of 7 – 17 years have dropped out of the basic education in the 12 months between June 2020 and May.
Vavi said that number tripled the number of drop outs under normal conditions, which was estimated at 230 000 per year.
He said the correlation between the crisis created by Covid-19 and the increased number of drop outs was stark and irrefutable.
"Covid-19 related factors that resulted in the non-attendance of learners include, fear of contracting Covid-19, especially at the initial phase of the virus, confusion of attendance days due to rotational system, safety concerns amongst walking clubs and demoralisation associated with random closure of schools due to infections," he said.
Vavi said other factors for non-attendance of school during Covid-19 were similar to reasons of non-attendance during normal times, albeit exacerbated under Covid-19.
“These factors are related to poverty, low household income and poor performance. During Covid-19, the economic crisis that followed left in its wake jobs bloodbath, reduction of wages for many workers and loss of income for street traders’ households as they were barred from operating due to level five,” he said.