South Africa's education sector may face a further surge in its school dropout rate in the near future, due to the continuously declining literacy rate. These changes are reported to have been exacerbated by learning losses that occurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Experts have also warned that pandemic related closures of early childhood development centres across the country, as well as continuing financial constraints could take their toll on learner literacy.
Professor Sarah Howie, from Stellenbosch University, says that the Covid-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the pressure on the country’s education system at all levels.
If we look at what is happening currently around the world we know on average that internationally 79 days a year have been lost. Now in the South African school year to put that into perspective we spend about 200 days a year at school, so can imagine that losing almost 50% of your time in school must be devastating.
Howie further explains that the overall impact of learning goes far beyond child learners as she has also observed a notable decline in adult learner literacy levels as well.
She adds that this is based on figures that date as far back as 2019 and that based on the current outlook, it is likely that there will be a further decline for both population groups.
The professor also states that extraordinary efforts may be required to stabilize the situation across all schooling levels.
As part of a solution, Professor Howie says that people need to be given better access to literary resources, particularly due to the fact that pupils don’t spend as much time in schools.
One of the things that we need to look at is widening access to resources because we know that schools are currently overwhelmed and that learners are not in school full time yet in many parts of the country and that’s another concern.
She also says that in addition to ramping up existing mobile library initiatives, the government should consider not taxing children’s books.
Professor also pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically increased the already existing inequality among learner households and that stakeholders in the sector should band together to broaden access to resources.