The Basic Education Department in Gauteng has confirmed that more than 100,000 learners are no longer in its system. However, the department believes this can only partially be because of school dropouts and some learners may have left the country or moved to other provinces. The DA in the province has called for an investigation into what happened to these learners, as reported by SABC News.
According to the DA, out of 2.5 million learners enrolled by the department in 2021, only 2.3 million returned to school in the 2022 academic year in Grades 1 to 12. For instance, learners drop out due to poverty, teenage pregnancy, and lack of scholar transport. The DA’s Gauteng Shadow MEC for Education, Khume Ramulifho, is concerned that 53,935 out of the 110,381 learners lost in the system are of school-going age.
This interruption in their education could affect their future because they will need more basic skills in the workplace. The department must have a mechanism in place to track learners who are lost in the system to ensure that every learner of school-going age has access to education, according to Ramulifho. Scores of learners have left the system, confirmed department spokesperson Steve Mabona.
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This is a cause for worry, and the department must attend to it urgently, says Hendrick Makaneta from Education for Social Justice. The UN International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) reports that about 250,000 school-going children drop out yearly in South Africa, which tripled to 750,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to track down these learners and integrate them into the education system, notably those lower than Grade 10 where the problem is dire, the Grade 10 crisis. Then, parents and guardians should bring them back to complete their schooling and get matric certificates.
One example is a ten-year-old girl who has not attended school since 2019. Her family fled to Pretoria following xenophobic attacks in parts of South Africa. She said she was at Kensington Ridge Primary School in Johannesburg but stopped attending after Grade 1. She feels terrible about it and wants to go back to school. The department’s priority is to educate and create a conducive environment for all learners in its schools, according to Mabona.