Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


‘Dropouts are a reflection of bigger societal issues’, says expert

The class of 2022 started Grade 1 with 1 177 089 pupils, but only 775 630 enrolled for Grade 12.


It’s time for parents and guardians to stop the blame game and finger-pointing when it comes to the country’s worrying dropout crisis, education experts say. The class of 2022 started Grade 1 with 1 177 089 pupils, but only 775 630 enrolled for Grade 12 and of them only 752 003 full-time candidates registered for the 2022 National Senior Certificate examinations. High failure and high repetition rates On Thursday, department of basic education director-general Hubert Mathanzima Mweli said: “SA’s problem is not so much the dropout rates but high failure and high repetition rates.” Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said a…

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It’s time for parents and guardians to stop the blame game and finger-pointing when it comes to the country’s worrying dropout crisis, education experts say.

The class of 2022 started Grade 1 with 1 177 089 pupils, but only 775 630 enrolled for Grade 12 and of them only 752 003 full-time candidates registered for the 2022 National Senior Certificate examinations.

High failure and high repetition rates

On Thursday, department of basic education director-general Hubert Mathanzima Mweli said: “SA’s problem is not so much the dropout rates but high failure and high repetition rates.”

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said a number of the pupils who fell through the cracks from the class of 2022 were either repeating grades, but still in the system, or “in technical and vocational education and training colleges, others in prison, death is also another factor, some drop out, pupil pregnancy is a huge social problem and juvenile centres”.

NOW READ: Matric not go the way you planned? There is hope beyond that certificate

‘Unrealistic pass rate’

Opposition parties have also slammed the department for celebrating an “unrealistic pass rate which does not factor in South Africa’s worryingly high dropout rate” with the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of basic education Baxolile Nodada reporting the dropout rate for the class of 2022 was 31.8%.

However, University of Johannesburg’s South African Research chair: integrated studies of learning language, mathematics and science in primary school Professor Elizabeth Henning said it might be time for South Africans to look closer to home because the department and schools were not the only ones to blame.

‘Bigger social picture’

“We need to look at the bigger social picture, the economy, pandemic, poverty and everything playing a role in the big societal crisis,” she said.

“This is a picture with different shades, there isn’t only one truth about this.” Henning said – based on anecdotal evidence – while some pupils were forced to drop out and work, some died and others sometimes chose not to go back to school for their own reasons.

‘Make Grade R compulsory’

Unisa professor and education analyst Oupa Lebeloane agreed with Henning and said the department has tabled the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill which sought to have stricter rules around pupil attendance, admissions and language policies.

Some of the key proposals in the Bill included making school attendance compulsory from Grade R, proposing stricter punishments for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school, including jail time and/or a fine of up to 12 months.

The department claimed the Bill would also make it an offence where any person unlawfully and intentionally interrupted, or hindered any school activity, and called on teachers, principals and school governing body members to take accountability for pupils who were absent from school for more than three days without a valid reason.

Societal issues

Lebeloane said the issue around dropouts was not necessarily a reflection of the state of the country’s education system or that the department was not doing its job, but a reflection on bigger societal issues.

“It’s crucial for parents to also start playing their role and monitoring their children. Liaise with teachers and also support pupils. In so doing, both the school and parents can account for an absent child,” he added.

However, Lebeloane also stressed the importance of reforming the education system by abandoning the approach that university education is the only way to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in SA, as this was out of touch with reality.

Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union urged South Africans not to use the Grade 12 results “as the sole or main yardstick to assess the performance of our education system”.

The union’s secretariat officer Xolani Fakude said: “We have been calling for a review of the current school resourcing formula.

“We contend that in its current form it disadvantages rural provinces, and we want to see a more equitable one.”

READ MORE: Matric class of 2022 faced difficulties unlike any other post-1994

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