One of the more worrying aspects of the impacts of Covid especially for the long-term social stability of our country is that the virus crisis and accompanying lockdowns have seen the school dropout rate more than triple, to 750 000.
That is the highest dropout rate in 20 years, according to the National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey.
According to experts, even though some of these pupils have resorted to home schooling, many of them have been unable to return to school as a result of psychological and emotional trauma.
University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of education Wayne Hugo says that, although the dropout numbers are alarmingly high, they are also partially a sign that parents are looking into alternative schooling.
However, he also noted that the coronavirus situation has highlighted the reality that “people are mostly used to the default education system and have an accepted practice which has led to schooling basically becoming childcare.”
Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga points out, correctly, that “when [pupils] stay away from school for too long, as has been the case with Covid, they lose interest and never return.”
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Education in South Africa is already despite the misleadingly high matric pass rate in a crisis.
A small proportion of those who begin Grade 1 never reach university and get a degree. Many who drop out of school join the ranks of the unemployed… but, more critically, the unemployable.
This is because they haven’t been given the tools to make them employable.
These are the very people who are the angry and alienated who will loot and burn at the drop of a hat.
Government needs to put in place rules and processes to ensure that pupils are not permitted to bail out oftheir vitally needed education.