How are politicians thinking about school dropout prevention strategies?

A quarter of our children are nutritionally stunted, damaging their educational prospects. While there are many reasons why children are pushed or pulled out of school, poor academic results and grade repetition due to poor marks are the best predictors of dropout. In South Africa about one in ten children (1.2 million) fail their grade each year and roughly 300 000 learners drop out of school annually, meaning that fewer than half our children complete Grade 12. This is a national emergency, one that should be on the agenda of all political parties contesting this year’s elections. We reviewed 13 party manifestos to find out their stance on preventing school dropout.

The ANC manifesto pledges second chances for matric through community and TVET colleges, echoing a commitment to providing alternative pathways for education. DA’s manifesto aims to reduce dropout rates by 10% annually, emphasising tailored interventions and curriculum diversification from as early as Grade 9. A focused strategy to combat the dropout challenge.

The EFF manifesto proposes compulsory post-secondary education and training by the state, taking a stern approach by considering criminal charges for non-attendance.

ACDP acknowledges the pressing issue of school dropouts in South African society. The party proposes the development of a national strategy to mitigate factors contributing to high dropout rates.

RISE Mzansi also commits to adopting a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to improve basic education outcomes and provide skills training opportunities. Addressing both education and skills development for a comprehensive solution. BOSA also acknowledges the concerning issue of almost half of students dropping out without completing their basic education. The party recognises the need for reforms in the basic education system. FF+ acknowledges the impact of neglecting mother-tongue education on academic performance and the high dropout rate. The party’s educational policy foundation emphasises providing all learners with access to mother-tongue education, recognizing its crucial role in addressing the dropout challenge.

IFP aims to address the high school dropout rate by including solutions to combat school bullying. A comprehensive approach recognising the negative impact of bullying on students and seeking measures for a safer educational environment.

GOOD seeks to address the high school dropout rate by ensuring that children remain in school through the use of social and child grants as part of their approach. A targeted strategy using grants to keep students in the education system. Al-Jamah’s manifesto proposes shutting down shebeens and drug dens near schools as part of their approach to address the high school dropout rate. This is a community-focused strategy to eliminate negative influences on learners. ATM also takes a community approach by developing youth rehabilitation and diversion programmes, addressing the root causes of “juvenile delinquency” and providing guidance and mentorship to at-risk youth as part of their approach to tackle the high school dropout issue.

Action-SA and UDM are the only parties that do not explicitly refer to specific interventions to address high school dropout rates, leaving their stance on this issue unclear.

Examining these varied approaches reveals a shared concern about school dropout. However, a common urgency among parties in addressing the high dropout rate is notably absent. This emphasises the crucial need for a unified commitment to ensure that every child can complete their education. Take this into thoughtful consideration as you cast your vote on election day in May.

Visit the Zero Dropout profile page to learn more about the big picture thinking behind solving school dropout.

DGMT has developed some learning briefs throughout the years. Click on the links below to read them.

Power, Access and Agency: Understanding barriers to parental involvement.

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The value of accelerated learning programmes.

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Digital Communications.

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How to restore — and maintain — the home as a site of learning.

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Effective digital communications.

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Against all odds — enabling distance learning in lower quintile schools.

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Breaking the cycle – teenage pregnancy and school dropout.

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Steps to address South Africa’s dropout crisis.

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To learn more about the work the Zero Dropout Campaign does, visit their website below and explore their publications.

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