Zero Dropout Campaign Addresses School Dropouts

Unfortunately, around 40% of learners drop out of school, which is why the Zero Dropout Campaign has committed itself to halve that percentage by 2030.

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Merle Mansfield, from the Zero Dropout Campaign, believes that for a long time dropping out of school has been normalized and the country has not done anything to prevent it.

This is where the campaign comes in, they work hard to ensure that they have an early warning system in place.

They intend to begin by tracking learner disengagement in schools at an early stage so that they can prevent learners from dropping out.

There are many reasons why these learners have dropped out, such as grade repetition, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic issues. 

Due to grade repetition, less than 40% of learners in the South African school system are currently the proper age for their grade.

Grade repetition causes large classes that are mixed in terms of learner capability, which puts a strain on teachers as they have to adjust their teaching to suit the different needs of their learners.

Recently, the campaign has done a publication on exactly how COVID-19 has impacted the dropout rate.

The current pandemic has left many learners returning to school with different levels of capacity and learning that they were able to retain in 2020.

With regards to economic issues, many learners are navigating issues of food insecurity, grief, loss of caregivers, their breadwinners losing jobs, moving homes, and facing homelessness.

In addition, learners also face social factors which pose a threat to learner engagement and heighten the dropout rate.

To achieve their goal of halving the dropout rate by 2030, they have been working to establish a tool that schools can use that track learner disengagement over a certain period of time and track three indicators.

The tool looks at academic behaviour and chronic absenteeism.

The work done in the past three years in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal has helped the campaign assign risk to a learner and actually intervene ahead of time before the disengagement escalates to the point where they drop out of school.

The campaign believes that if they associate risk with psychosocial responses then many different kinds of risk levels exist, which allows them to efficiently use resources in the country.

Currently, psychosocial support within the school system is very scarce and are not enough to cover the kind of needs that all learners have, however, if they start using the risk-adjusted method it will allow them to make better use of community volunteers and community support systems.

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