Basic Education worried about matric dropout numbers

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The Department of Basic Education says it’s worried about the number of matric learners who’ve dropped out of school this year.

Just last month, the Department told Parliament that its projections are that over 52 000 learners in Grade 7 and over 23 000 matriculants would not return to class.

It emerged that about 18% of all Gauteng learners, from grades 1 to matric, have not gone back to school after several COVID-19 related disruptions to schooling.

But National Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, says some learners might have opted for homeschooling. Mhlanga says of bigger concern is the grade 12 learners who’ve absconded.

“Drop out rate is still a problem because we want all our learners back at school, but if there is no way of verifying why they are not coming back. It becomes difficult for us because we don’t want a drop-out rate, particularly at matric level. So, we hope as we finalise the numbers, we will get a good idea of how many of our learners have not returned to school especially our grade 12 learners.”

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has expressed concern.

“That worries us big time, I must be honest. We’ve got almost 18% average across all grades of all learners that didn’t come back and that feel they can repeat. We are pushing it to have a national policy with the national minister to determine how we can assist them, but even during this hour, we want to urge parents, it’s not advisable to keep your children at home.”

Lesufi is very concerned about the impact that the repeating learners will have on the system next year. He’s particularly worried about grades 3, 7 and 11 where a large number have stayed away.

“It will lock the entire system because we are going to have expanded classrooms, overcrowded classrooms, additional teachers, because you find a certain grade, especially grades 7, 3 that’s where we have the high numbers of learners who are not at school, including 11 and that worries us,” says Lesufi.

Lesufi has expressed relief that the teachers who had been given permission to work from home due to comorbidities have largely returned to their posts.