The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns tripled South Africa’s school dropout rate and resulted in many educational gains being wiped out.
Around 750 000 learners did not return to school in South Africa as a result of the pandemic. This is triple the pre-pandemic Out-Of-School Children (OOSC) rate of 250 000.
The report by Unicef paints a bleak picture. One of the main takeaways is that learning is taking place at an alarmingly slow pace and that it would take a learner seven years to learn foundational reading skills that should be done in the first two years of schooling.
It is however not only South Africa’s education system suffering as a result of the pandemic. In Liberia, 43% of pupils did not return to school, while in Uganda, 10% of both primary and high school learners dropped out.
Unicef South Africa representative, Christine Muhigana says this is concerning and needs to be taken seriously by the education sector.
Muhigana does however say they are cautiously optimistic that this OOSC rate will decline. This is attributed to the steps taken by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to open schools fully and do away with rotational learning.
She said, “We hope that those children who were disengaged, out of touch with learning with schooling will be back. But that you know remains something that will be watched and worked on and we support the Departments of Basic Education and other partners in the education sector to make sure that those children do come back”.