Nomsa Mpongwana grade 7 pupils being screened as they arrive at school. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Nomsa Mpongwana grade 7 pupils being screened as they arrive at school. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Campaign hits out at Dept of Basic Education for not tackling high dropout rate

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Oct 7, 2020

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Johannesburg – The Department of Basic Education has been challenged to set annual targets to reduce the school dropout rate.

While there was a dropout crisis in the country’s schools, the department has no reduction target plan, the Zero Dropout Campaign has said.

The campaign, a fairly new social project of the DG Murray Trust, made a presentation before Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee on Tuesday.

“DBE’s revised five-year strategic plan 2015/16-2019/20 mentions dropout, with an emphasis on keeping learners engaged up to Grade 9 (but there’s) no target identified for learner dropout,” said the campaign’s director, Merle Mansfield, in a presentation.

The department should “make dropout a KPI (key performance indicator for officials) and set reduction targets”, she added.

The Zero Dropout Campaign was fuelled by the often-bandied claim that those who write matric each year were just a proportion of the classmates they started school with.

Each year after releasing the matric results, critics remind Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga that about 40% of the learners who started school 12 years ago fell by the wayside.

Mansfield said: “The education sector receives the lion’s share of the government budget (even though funding per learner has been declining).

“Despite this investment, around 40% of learners who start school won’t finish. This has largely been a hidden crisis.”

The government’s own data indicated a crisis in the school dropout rate. The draft National Youth Policy (NYP) 2020-2030, published recently, placed the number of youth who exited school without the life-changing certificate at over 50%.

“About 60% of South Africa’s youth have either left school before matric or have failed their matric exam, and are left without any kind of recognised educational qualification,” it said.

The NYP said the dropouts did not only leave with no piece of paper indicating they went to school, they also exited with “no professional or technical skills, making them effectively unemployable”.

Statistics SA data also showed that the majority of the unemployed in the country were those without the matric certificate.

But the dropout problem was not being addressed, said Mansfield.

“Despite the knock-on effect of dropout on unemployment and social spending, there is no national task team or co-ordinated effort to tackle the problem.”

The department took issue with the campaign’s reliance on the claim that the dropout rate was so bad that matriculants of each year were just a proportion of their Grade 1 classmates.

“It’s a linear approach. It’s flawed, terribly flawed,” said director-general Mathanzima Mweli. “One of those flaws is to assume that all learners who have not gone out of the exit Grade dropped out.”

The biggest issue in the system was learners repeating classes, he said.

Follow @BonganiNkosi87

The Star

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