Limpopo’s education department is concerned about the high rate of absenteeism in schools across the province since the lifting of the Covid-19 hard lockdown.
In her presentation to the provincial Covid-19 command council in Polokwane on Wednesday, MEC for Education Polly Boshielo said the absenteeism was due to several factors, including fear of Covid-19 infection, anxiety and other health conditions.
She also pointed out that gender-based violence has become a common occurrence in communities in the province.
Recently, there had been several reports of female learners attacked and raped on their way to and from schools.
The absenteeism trend has also been observed by student and teacher organisations.
The Congress of South African Students (Cosas), which had earlier called for pupils to stay away from schools for fear of Covid-19 infections, say the issue of attendance on a rotational basis is also a contributing factor.
Rotational school attendance
Cosas had agitated for school camps to be established until the end of the academic year, to avoid the spread of Covid-19 at schools.
Its provincial secretary, Scalo Mahladisa, said pupils in lower grades were being negatively affected by attendance on a rotational basis.
“They go to school once or twice a week, and they forget what they have been doing at schools. The rotational basis leads to a loss of interest in schooling because many of the pupils don’t have access to online learning.
“It is only those learners who are in schools under quintile 4 to 5, who have access to online learning because their parents encourage them to stay and learn at home. It’s only those under quintile 1 to 3 that are forced to go to school,” Mahladisa said.
He also pointed to teen pregnancies as contributing to absenteeism.
“Though the pregnancy rate is at a low rate, many of the pupils did not return to school after lockdown,” he said.
Professional Educators Union provincial chairperson Poncho Mabusha said the Covid-19 lockdown and attendance on rotational basis have seemingly encouraged pupils to stay away from classes.
“There has never been a 100% attendance by pupils,” Mabusha said.
However, education spokesperson Tidimallo Chuene said the department has put measures place, in an effort to reverse the absenteeism trend.
Chuene said school management teams and school governing bodies have been tasked to follow up on absent pupils, “so they can participate in the assessment process for progression to the next grade”.
“Parents of learners with underlying health conditions should inform the school of such, for an arrangement for the learner to receive home assignments, where applicable,” she said.