COVID-19 exacerbated crisis in education system: Prof Msibi

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University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) academic, Professor Thabo Msibi, says the COVID -19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already a crisis in education at schools. Msibi says research in recent years shows that about 60% of children in grade 1 will not make it to matric.

Msibi, who is Dean of Education at UKZN, says COVID 19 has shone a harsh light on the education crisis and the disproportionate effects on poorer families.

Prof Msibi says poverty has a direct affect on a learner’s ability to attend school and COVID- 19 has amplified this reality.

Msibi’s remarks come amid the Department of Basic Education’s concern about the number of matric learners who’ve dropped out of school this year.

Just last month the Department told parliament that it’s projections are that over 52 000 learners in grade 7  and over 23 000 matriculants would not return to class.

It emerged that about 18% of all Gauteng learners, from Grades 1 to matric, have not gone back to school after several COVID-19 related disruptions to schooling.

However, National Education Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, says some learners might have opted for home schooling.

Mhlanga says of bigger concern is the Grade 12 learners who’ve absconded.

“The drop out rate is still a problem because we want all our learners back at school but if there is no way of verifying why they are not coming back it becomes difficult for us, because we don’t want a drop-out rate particularly at matric level so we hope as we finalise the numbers that  we will get a good idea of how many of our learners have not returned to school, especially our grade 12 learners.”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions ( SAFTU) is calling for a complete overhaul of what it terms “a dysfunctional public education system” in the country.

SAFTU General-Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, says the current system is not responsive to the demands of the labour market.

“We are in crisis when it comes to our education system. It’s dysfunctional, it is offloading hundreds and thousands of our kids before they reach grade 12. These kids find themselves roaming in the streets without any prospects of getting employed. We’re now demanding a single public education system that is free, compulsory, and decolonised. That is going to give skills to our young people to enter the job market, confident that they can make a positive contribution to the growth of our economy.”

Concerns over matric dropout numbers:

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