The Department of Basic Education released figures in November last year which stated that 114 588 public school learners in the Western Cape could not be accounted for. There have been many reasons for this, but the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown is thought to have influenced these high numbers.
Principals in the province are now concerned about the number of learners who have dropped out of school.
IEB schools have also expressed that they have seen a number of learners drop out of matric due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
“While not immediately clear in the numbers, the impact of Covid-19 on the schooling population saw several learners withdraw from the year and postpone completion of Grade 12 until 2021,” said the IEB's CEO Anne Oberholzer.
Acting President of the South African Principal's Association, Dr George Motshoeneng spoke to eNCA about the alarming figures saying that the issue started with Covid-19.
Dr Motshoeneng says that these learners who were not accounted for are not totally lost as some have already returned to schools to register for the 2021 academic year so that they may complete their matric exams by the end of the year.
He says the learners who have dropped out will become apart of the large number of people who are unemployed in South Africa as they may not find any work due to the lack of qualifications.
In order to motivate learners to return to school, Dr Motshoeneng says that campaigns should be put in place which encourage them.
He says that parents must also make an effort to motivate these learners to attend their schooling and that combined efforts from them and the department could get learners back to the classrooms.
Elkanah House Principal Angus Morton said:
“It is a concern not just for schools but for the country. The country will feel this impact for students who have gaps and a year that students have missed of their schooling. It is going to cost us as a country.”
In a statement on the school drop-out rate, Equal Education said:
“The longer learners remain out of school, the higher the likelihood of them dropping out. This is especially true for learners who were already at risk of dropping out before the Covid-19 pandemic."
When schools reopened on Monday 15 February, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer urged learners to stay in school.
"It’s really important for students to complete their schooling. If you don’t have the basic schooling it limits the chances of everything that youngsters do in life," said Schafer.