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How dropout rates are diminishing education as a human right

How dropout rates are diminishing education as a human right
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2018-03-21 09:00

Jackie Carroll

Almost 24 years after the dawn of democracy in
South Africa, several headwinds still face the country in terms of ensuring
that education is enshrined as a fundamental human right.

Both the South African Constitution and the
United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights make special mentions of
education.

Section 29 of the Constitution says every
citizen has the right to a basic education and that the state – through
reasonable measures – must make it available and accessible. Crucially, this
means the state has a duty to respect an individual’s right to education.

Meanwhile, the UN in 1948 drew up the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which said all the world’s citizens have
a right to education.

Education forms the basis of development in
any country, and in South Africa our government each year allocates the lion’s
share of its national budget to this very cause.

A big highlight every year in early January is
the announcement of the matric pass rate. But despite the 2017 matric pass
being 75.1%, the reality of the situation paints a much different picture.

Of the 1 155 629 pupils who started Grade 1 in 2006,
only 34.7% obtained a matric pass in 2017, according to data from Africa Check.

In addition, just 40% of 20-year-old
respondents in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 General Household Surveys said they had a
matric.

When considering that a matric pass is the
very basic requirement for anybody seeking a job in South Africa, these
statistics paint a very worrying picture.

To start thinking about solving this problem
and strengthening the right to education, we need to identify what the key
factors are behind this problem.

Key
reasons for dropouts

The first key reason behind this high dropout
rate includes socio-economic factors that force children to leave school.

This includes children having to leave school
in search of work, simply because their families cannot survive otherwise. Child-headed
households are still prevalent, where parents have died or left, and children,
again, have to leave school to work and fend for their siblings.

Added to this are the other social ills such
as drugs or alcohol addiction, and teen pregnancies, exacerbate the country’s
pass rate woes.

Another key reason behind dropouts is that
many children struggle to see the value of education. This is especially true
of children who don’t meet the requirements of their grades and who are
progressed or pushed through the educational system by their schools.

In turn, educators often prompt progressed
children to leave the system completely – especially at Grade 10 and 11 level –
so as not to drag down a school’s matric pass rate.

Many of these children are then persuaded to
attend local community centres, but there’s no guarantee that their education
needs are then met, and they are at high risk of falling out the system
entirely.

Other factors that have a direct impact on our
children’s ability to learn and progress through the system include reading
comprehension.

Nearly 8 out of 10 children at Grade 4 level
cannot read with meaning compared to 4 in 100 internationally, according to a
PIRLS study conducted last year.

More than half of South African schools
assessed in the PIRLS study also don’t have libraries, while more than half of
the children assessed further said that they don’t have books at home.

While reading should be taught and reinforced
at school, it also a skill that should be inculcated at homes across the
country.

As a society, we need to promote a culture of
reading. But this is challenging, especially in a country where many parents,
because of apartheid, tragically cannot read themselves.

There
is hope

As Media Works, we specialise in helping
adults successfully navigate the process towards obtaining their matric
qualifications later on in life.

There is hope then for our children who do
drop out of the system. But that hope also needs to be tempered with the
realism that obtaining a matric after school-leaving age becomes more
challenging the longer one waits.

It’s much more difficult to go back and study
10 or 20 years later, but it certainly is possible.

Ensuring
education is entrenched as a human right

To the governing ANC’s credit, the political
party has managed to ensure that more people are included in the net of basic
education than ever before.

South Africa needs to move forward in ensuring
this net grows, but that, critically, our children receive the highest possible
quality education.

The recent move by President Cyril Ramaphosa
to call on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to phase out pit toilet
latrines after the death of a child in the Eastern Cape is encouraging, but
much more needs to be done to ensure a dignified environment.

Added to this, dealing with the factors that
cause high dropout rates and the social ills around it should be key focus area
for South Africa when it comes to ensuring that more of our children benefit
from the right to education.

As our great former president, Nelson Mandela,
once said: “From the poorest of countries to the richest of nations, education is
the key to moving forward in any society.”

– Jackie Carroll is the CEO and co-founder of Media Works, the largest private Adult Education and Training provider in South Africa.



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