Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Children sing a song as they attend assembly on their first day back at school at the start of the new academic year in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Denis Farrell/AP
NewsDefeat Poverty

Over 300,000 South African Children May Have Dropped Out of Primary School During COVID-19

Why Global Citizens Should Care
COVID-19 has affected the way children around the world experience education and, for many, education has just not been an option throughout the pandemic — with 1 in 3 children globally missing out on remote learning. The United Nations’ Global Goal 4 calls for quality education for all and this can only be achieved if all children have equal access to education. Join the movement and take action on this issue here

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education across the globe, and while schools have managed to carry on using online resources and dividing attendance days, some students have been unable to return to school as a result of this disruption. 

According to TimesLive, South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, confirmed this week that more than 300,000 children have potentially dropped out of primary schools across South Africa over a 6-month period, including the national lockdown.

Motshekga did not clarify whether these cases are due to family unemployment factors that contribute to not being able to afford education, or if they are a result of the fear of contracting the virus that has discouraged parents from sending their children to school. 

Of the nine provinces in the country, KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of recorded absentees  — with 126,553 children having missed school. This is closely followed by the Western Cape with 114,558 absentees, and Gauteng with 55,571. The provinces that have experienced the fewest dropouts are Limpopo with 800, and North West with 370.  

Motshekga has stated that the national Department of Basic Education is working towards getting these children reinstated in school, and they are exploring several methods to encourage parents to prioritise their children’s education. 

Related Stories Oct. 13, 2020 UK and Kenya to Join Forces in 2021 for Huge Push to Get Children Back to School Around the World

“[We] encourage parents to send absent learners to school. Through telephone calls, SMSs, local radio stations, and home visits, dates for returning of respective grades are timeously communicated to parents and learners. A demerit system is used on learners who are absent without valid reasons,” she said. 

While the minister did not approach the issue of affordability of costs that go towards sending a child to school, including fees, transport, and school supplies, it is important to note that a large number of South Afrricans have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic.

Statistics South Africa reported that 2.2 million jobs were lost as a result of the economy shutting down during the lockdown period, and this potentially could have an affect on children’s school attendance. 

Furthermore, as many schools have been supplementing with online learning, a large number of South African households cannot afford the computers or the internet access required for this to be a feasible option. 

Related Stories Oct. 12, 2020 Just 7 of 24 Countries in West and Central Africa Have Reopened Schools Since COVID-19: UNICEF

This could mean that some children have missed out on large chunks of their school curriculum and may not be up to participating at school, not to mention the end of year tests and examinations. 

One thing Motshekga did emphasise was the importance of carrying out the school year and continuing with end of year examinations.

She announced that, should students test positive for COVID-19, the Department of Education together with the Department of Health have decided that they can continue to take part in their exams under specific conditions. 

Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems. 

 But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.