The Zero Dropout Campaign has been trying to tackle the school dropout rate. Around 40% of learners dropout of school before reaching matric.
"Drop out in our country has for a very long time been pervasive and very normalised. In fact, we haven't been talking about the issue at all. We don't track dropout in our country. Not effectively enough for us to be able to prevent it well." said Merle Mansfield of the Zero Dropout Campaign.
The campaign aims to track learner disengagement at an early age in order to determine what can be done to keep learners in school.
Grade repetition is a problem in the South African schooling system, as only less than 40% of learners in the system are in the right grade for their age.
This is one of the factors that influence the dropout rate in the country.
"If we look at just about 60% of our population being in our poorest schools, who are already under-resourced, struggling with educational outcomes and what that means in terms of their disengagement. We can see why we have such a pervasive issue with dropout, because disengagement is heightened by this concern. The longer we take to put measures in place to intervene and ensure that our learners' engagement is upped, our teaching and learning efforts won't make a difference" said Mansfield.
Covid-19 has also become a contributing factor, as learners had different access to learning support over the course of 2020.
This, along with a number of other social factors made worse by Covid-19, has increased the likelihood of dropouts.
The Zero Dropout Campaign has been working to establish an early warning system to track learner disengagement.
The system looks at three factors:
- Academic achievement
- Chronic absenteeism
This helps schools intervene ahead of time, before learners decide to drop out.
Providing psychosocial support is part of the campaign's response to the issues faced by learners.