250 000 Learners A Year Will Not Make It To University


A sizeable portion of Grade 1 learners have entered the school system for the first time this year, but sadly, a large number of that group will not make it to the end of matric. Many of South Africa's children are meant to be inside a classroom everyday, but some have chosen not to do so and have instead found themselves on other paths. 



According to Stats SA, 250 000 learners drop out of school every year, an alarming figure that has raised a number of concerns for the country's youth.

The 2023 academic year is officially in full swing, but many of those children enrolled in primary and high schools across the country will not be seated for their final matric exams.  

It is estimated that only 45% of learners who begin Grade One will write their final matric exams in 12 years time, mainly attributed to the sky-high dropout rate South African schools and communities are experiencing.

Rahima Essop, Spokesperson of the Zero Dropout Campaign, says that there are up to 40 various reasons why such a large and alarming number of children are not in schools.

Peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as socioeconomic problems are some of the reasons that lead to children taking many days of absenteeism and eventually choosing to abandon their studies. Poor academic performance paired with illness and disabilities in the home top the reasons. 

Another major concern when it comes to the school dropout rate is that boys are more likely to forfeit their education than girls are; a fact the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is aware of and exploring methods to combat this issue. 

One such learner is 15-year-old Nhlanhla Mawuku, who left the school environment 6 years ago. The idea of waking up early, going to school for the day, and then returning home to do it all again the following day, was not appealing to him. 

"We would just sit while bunking school and smoke glue until it's time to go home," said Nhlanhla. "Once we got home, not even my grandmother could notice." 

Nhlanhla's school principle caught wind of his activities with his friends and requested that his parents come in to discuss what was going on in his life. Refusing to do so, Nhlanhla became deregistered. 

Studies suggest that learners who drop out of school prematurely experience a lack of access to higher education and fewer job opportunities than learners who complete basic education schooling.

The matric certificate carries quite a bit of weight in South Africa today, due to the economic and severe youth unemployment situation the country finds itself in.

"I wanted to be a lawyer, but I realised that is not possible because I dropped out at such a young age. I feel hurt because even my mom didn't like that. She feels hurt," says Nhlanhla, whose mother tried very hard to motivate him even before he dropped out of school. 

South Africa is also simultaneously dealing with a rise in teenage pregnancy, which is also a contributing factor as to why learners don't continue pursuing their education.

Of every three learners who fall pregnant, only two will return to school. 

Some learners who have had babies have chosen not to return to school, as they are taking care of their children alone and are often left without support.  

Mary Metcalfe, Education Expert, says that learners begin to lose hope and don't see the value of attending school if they're not coping.

"The school-based factors that give rise to capable young people not succeeding in school starts with the early Foundation Phase period. In the first three years, we expect and hope that learners would be able to master reading in their home language and basic numeracy," explains Metcalfe. 


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