Merle Mansfield from The Zero Dropout Campaign said the dropout rate has been highly normalised for some time in South Africa. She said it has become difficult to accurately track the number of learners who drop out.
“What we found is that we actually don’t have the necessary data to be able to give an accurate number for how many learners leave our school system every year. That in itself is an indictment on how we are managing the learner level data within our country.”
The analysis that The Zero Dropout Campaign was able to do showed that a number of learners disappear from the school system before they reach their grade 12 year.
It is still unclear how many more are leaving the school system because the way South Africa currently tracks data doesn’t allow for the movement of learners to be seen.
What Mansfield also found is that learners are leaving school because of factors influenced by the school environment.
“Learners are leaving school because of disengagement and drop out is the ultimate consequence of disengagement. Disengagement is impacted by a range of factors that learners have to face. These factors can happen within the school. They’re issues like failing a grade, repeating a grade, struggling academically, struggling to read, experiencing corporal punishment.”
On top of this, learners also experience a number of factors outside of school that they have to navigate. These factors include experiencing trauma, family issues, community violence, inequality and poverty.
“The level of disengagement that learners experience gets heightened they more that they are interacting with these factors without any mitigating prevention in place.”
She said investigating the risks that learners face will help the education system have a better and quicker response to the issues faced by learners.
The Zero Dropout Campaign had 3 recommendations for the Department of Basic Education.
Put a target in place for schools that will hold the education system accountable.
Improve data tracking -This will create a warning system to alert officials about learners who are on the verge of dropping out.
Provide psychosocial support – This includes having processes and referral systems to support learners
“When we talk about psychosocial support it is definitely something that is a multi-sectoral kind of intervention that needs to happen, but it needs to be coordinated and it needs to be something that we can track and we can use risk-informed responses for.”
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé