Dept Confirms Highest Rate of Pupil Dropout in Years

The Department of Basic Education confirms that the dropout rate of pupils in school has tripled throughout the pandemic and is the highest it's been in 20 years. Read further to learn more.


The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has said that the dropout rate of pupils in school has tripled to about 500 000 more because of the current Covid-19 situation the world is suffering through.

DBE's Deputy Director in Research Co-ordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate, Nompumelelo Mohohlowane, says the reason behind pupil dropout is rotational attendance in schools.

Mohohlowane stated that children from low-income households were not receiving daily meals in school and parents feared they might contact the Covid-19 virus, which also contributed the high dropout rate.

Our understanding of what could be causing the absence in pupils in schools do range from anxiety amongst parents that their kids will contract the virus, socioeconomic status which has changed in some households and the anxiety from some learners who feel they may not be able to perform well in school because of the rotational attendance.

The education sector has been losing school days since the beginning of the implementation of lockdown restrictions. This has had a negative impact in the progress and quality of learning and teaching in schools, says Mohohlowane.

The Economist and Lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Dr Debra Shepherd, also weighed in and said that socio-economic issues and hunger is the main reason behind pupil dropout.

The thing that is coming through strongly is children not having food security and contracting Covid-19.

The DBE shared that an average of 39% school attendance was recorded in July last year when selected grades were allowed to go back to school. The recorded rate of school attendance in May this year is 92%, says the DBE.

Mohohlowane confirmed that before the Covid-19 disruptions, the attendance in schools was above 98% of school going for children between 7 and 17 years old.

The department has been criticized of it's fruitless strategy to keep learners in schools under the Covid-19 pandemic because of the low actual turnout rate in school attendance.

The National School Nutrition programme (NSNP) has been the apparent failure as the Education Department was taken to court for their lack of adequate implementation of the programme.  

Mohohlowane said the main barrier in the rotational attendance system is maintaining social distance. She also mentioned that unfed children due to rotational attendance system contributed to the problem.

The recent incidents of looting in parts of the country will also worsen the already dysfunctional system of rotational attendance. Many schools in looting provinces were broken into with the KwaZulu-Natal province reporting that 32 schools were vandalised.


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