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Northern Cape Schools Struggling With Attendance

Schools in the Northern Cape have been struggling to get learners to return since lockdown regulations were eased. Experts have predicted that South Africa will have a high drop out rate this year because of disruptions caused by the lockdown.

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More than 10 000 learners in the Northern Cape have still not returned to school. About 3 000 of the learners who didn't return are in grades R, 1 and 2. 

Basic education acting head of department in the Northern Cape, Sandile Beuzana said the department has tried to follow up on these learners by talking to their parents. 

“The department is currently using different strategies to secure accurate data on absenteeism due to parents choosing not to send learners to school for reasons covered under the Disaster Management Act,” Beuzana said. 

In September, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) partly blamed the high rate of absenteeism on the department's use of a rotational timetable. 

Cosas provincial secretary, Scalo Mahladisa said learners in lower grades were being negatively affected by the rotational timetable.

"They go to school once or twice a week and they forget what they have been doing at schools. The rotational basis leads to a loss of interest in schooling because many of the pupils don't have access to online learning."

Merle Mansfield from The Zero Dropout Campaign said it has become difficult to accurately track the number of learners who drop out. 

The Zero Dropout Campaign did an analysis which showed that a number of learners disappear from the school system before they reach grade 12.

It is still unclear how many more are leaving the school system because the way South Africa currently tracks data doesn't allow for the movement of learners to be seen. 

What Mansfield also found is that learners are leaving school because of factors influenced by the school environment. 

"Learners are leaving school because of disengagement and drop out is the ultimate consequence of disengagement. Disengagement is impacted by a range of factors that learners have to face. These factors can happen within the school. They're issues like failing a grade, repeating a grade, struggling academically, struggling to read, experiencing corporal punishment."

The Basic Education Department has been pleading with parents for months to get them to send their children to school. 

 “We appreciate the support we get from some parents and going forward, we would like to plead with everyone to allow the kids to come back to catch up on lost time," said Basic Education Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule.

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