Over 300,000 South African Children May Have Dropped Out of Primary School During COVID-19
The Department of Education is contacting parents to encourage them to send children back to school.
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.
“[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.
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.
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