Home South African School drop-outs due to Covid-19 pressures spark a concern

School drop-outs due to Covid-19 pressures spark a concern

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Pupils have experienced many setbacks in their curriculum during the pandemic and some will experience work overload and rushed syllabus before the upcoming exams.

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CAPE TOWN – The immense pressure on teachers and pupils over the last few months meant immediate interventions are needed to avoid anticipated school drop-outs.

Pupils have experienced many setbacks in their curriculum during the pandemic and some will experience work overload and rushed syllabus before the upcoming exams.

Executive director of The Learning Trust, an organisation that provides funding and support to educational non-profits in the after-school sector, Sibongile Khumalo said: “The pressure on both teacher and learner at this time is immense. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) anticipated a dropout of 38,000 Grade 7s and 18,000 matrics, which is why immediate interventions are needed.”

He said pupils were are feeling overwhelmed and needed all the support they could get. A lot has to come from beyond the classroom. It is believed that after-school programmes will play a significant role in recovering what has been lost.

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said she could not comment on the DBE figures or anticipated drop-out rates but the trend in attendance had generally been positive since schools reopened in June, taking into account the phasing in of grades.

“Grade 3 attendance increased from 41% to 71%, Grade 7 from 32% to 76% and Grade 12 from 44% originally to 87%. These numbers are based on learners at school physically.”

Hammond said while the original numbers seem extremely low, one must also note that attendance was staggered on certain days, making it hard to calculate.

Therefore it was difficult to anticipate the drop-out rate.

A better picture of Grade 12 drop-out rates will show once the results of the trial exams come in (numbers enrolled vs numbers writing).

“Attendance figures also exclude those learners legitimately staying home because their parents applied for a concession due to comorbidities, or because they are anxious about Covid-19. They are still to work from home. Arrangements with the school should have been made to ensure teaching and learning continues,” she said.

Mitchells Plain High principal Faiq Salie said: “The pressure experienced varies. In the lower income communities, the stresses on matrics range from disillusionment around preparedness for the final exams to whether it’s still worth writing at all.

“Our schools are doing their utmost to complete the entire curriculum for Grade 12 learners and provide the necessary encouragement. I think that with the mock exams under way, matrics will gain confidence.”

Salie said the trimmed curriculum was proof that the system understands it’s impossible to finish everything this year.

Cape Argus