Leaving no child behind: The road to Zero School Dropout – Interview Series #3

Today we feature the last of our interviews with our partners working with us in the Zero School Dropout Initiative. In previous weeks we talked to Bottom-Up, Khula Development Group, Community Action Partnership and SAILI. These interviews can be read here and here. We end off the series by talking to Tabisa Bata of Masibumbane Development Organisation and Zeni Thumbadoo of NACCW.

Tabisa Bata – Masibumbane Development Organisation

What motivates you to work in this space?

I was brought up by a teacher – a woman who really valued education. Growing up, we never had an option to drop out of school or not finish matric. The standard was set early in my life that I could go far. I was brought up under those expectations. Even though I grew up in a township, we always valued education. I hoped that every child in South Africa could have those same expectations on them.

What was your biggest learning from last year?

The realisation that the academic issues aren’t the main cause of dropout. The main push out factors are psychosocial ones. It’s often the socio-economic background, peer pressure, bullying and substance abuse that causes dropout. We found very little evidence that a child would drop out solely for academic reasons.

What is Masibumbane’s vision for the year ahead?

Our vision is to ensure that more learners are brought into the Check & Connect model (especially in the primary school years, as this is a good time to try to prevent issues arising before the learners enter high school) and that others can implement this model.

The model is imported and we have been curious to see how it would work in South Africa. We were very mindful of the fact that this had worked in first world countries, which didn’t have the same socioeconomic pressures as South Africa. As this is a two-year model, we will be able to see how it has affected the kids who passed from Grade 8 to Grade 9 in the last year.

How do you feel about the year ahead?

We are excited but also apprehensive. We will still focus on the Check and Connect model, but we will need to start mobilising schools to effectively collect data, which could be very challenging. This urges us to move towards mobilising a whole school towards the issue of learners dropping out. We worry about the kind of stumbling blocks we will face in the schools, as not everyone handles change in the same way. However, the relationship we have with the schools will assist us a lot. There’s going to be change, but we’re not sure how it’s going to work yet.

What advice would you give to other NGOs working in this space?

Spending time and effort on building relationships with schools and parents is very important and takes more time than you’d think – identify a teacher who cares, there will always be at least one. Assume nothing even if you come from a similar background. Offer weekly support and reflection time to your fieldworkers, because they carry the weight of the children’s heartfelt stories with them. Provide a space where you find solutions together as a team.


Zeni Thumbadoo – NACCW

What motivates you to work in this space?

We believe in children and youth. We believe in their capacity to achieve. We believe that if children and youth are supported caringly, with an individualised response, they are able to flourish and thrive. There are numerous circumstances that make it difficult for children to achieve (“barriers to learning”). We believe child and youth care workers can remove these barriers to support the learners.

What was your biggest learning from last year?

We learned that child and youth care workers can make a difference; that children need psychosocial support and care; and that we need to understand how to work effectively with educators according to the educational policies, so our role is aligned to the objectives of the department of DBE. Strategically, I’ve learned that the department wants to see academic achievement through psychosocial care. (They want to see a link between academic achievement and psychosocial care.)

Right now, we’re consulting with the Department to see if we can co-create a guideline document of how to integrate child and youth care workers into schools. It’s a process of aligning this to the expectations of DBE and getting a deeper understanding of what they are thinking.

What is NACCW’s vision for the year ahead?

Our vision is to successfully integrate child and youth care workers into the education setting as a key member of the multidisciplinary team.

We want to see a scale-up programme and design our programme as a non-profit social franchise approach. We want to see buy-in from national and provincial departments.

How do you feel about the year ahead?

Enthusiastic – I feel that we’re being recognised. Our role as CYCWs is being understood better. We’re walking a journey towards a recognition of child and youth care workers in schools. This year, we will build on our learnings and refine them.

What advice would you give to other NGOs working in this space?

I think that because of the enormous need in South Africa, we need to design programmes for scale up. Nuanced programmes (such as remedial or reading programmes) can be attached to more comprehensive scale-up programmes. You have to design programmes with parallel agendas and that align to and integrate the different Departmental policies.

We also need to look at the cost-effectiveness – this matters to government. People design models without looking at all the opportunities to maximise the investment case.

Thank you for joining on this journey to meet the trailblazers involved with us in the Zero School Dropout Initiative. Keep an eye on our website and social channels about this initiative. Register for our email notifications here to ensure you don’t miss out on any news and new developments.

Share this post

Get the latest news & updates:

Select the specific themes and topics that interest you:

Other news and articles:

Hands-on Learning Issue 27

Through the newly rebranded edition of our Hands-on Learning publication developed in June 2023, we hope to play a helpful role in synthesising information from

Read More »