Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist


Number of children not attending school tripled in 2020 due to Covid-19 – Stats SA

According to Stats SA, the pandemic negatively affected school attendance and child care arrangements.


The number of children not attending school tripled during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, according to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey (GHS).

Stats SA on Thursday released the GHS which tracks the progress of development in the country and identifies persistent service delivery gaps.

According to the survey, the pandemic negatively affected school attendance as the percentage of children aged five, who did not attend an educational institution, increased from 10,9% in 2019 to 37,7% in 2020, before dropping off to 19,4% in 2021.

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A similar pattern was also observed for children aged six, as the number of children who did not receive education increased from 3,5% in 2019 to 11,8% in 2020, before declining to 5,9% by 2021.

“Although participation (enrolment) in education was still relatively high, data shows that a slightly higher percentage of children in older age groups were not attending school compared to 2019,” Stats SA said.

Child care

The statistics agency said the reasons behind the drop in the number of children not attending school in 2020 was due to how the nature of child care arrangements changed during the pandemic.

States SA warned the effects of the pandemic were still lingering on early childhood development and school attendance in the country.

“The percentage of children aged 0–4 years that remained at home with a parent, guardian, other adults or children increased from 57,8% in 2019 to 64,6% in 2021.

“During the same time, the percentage of children that attended grade R, pre-school, nursery school, crèche, and edu-care centres decreased from 36,8% in 2019 to 28,5% in 2021.”

On the positive side, the survey showed that the percentage of individuals aged 20 years and older who did not have any education decreased from 11,4% in 2002 – when Stats SA started conducting the GHS – to 3,2% in 2021.

Those with at least a grade 12 qualification increased from 30,5% to 50,5% over the same period.

“Inter-generational functional literacy has also decreased markedly. While 35,8% of South Africans over the age of 60 years did not complete at least a grade 7 qualification, this figure dropped to only 3,2% for those aged 20 ̶ 39 years of age.”

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