Yadhana Jadoo
Political Editor
2 minute read
26 Jun 2014
6:00 am

Pupils caught in poverty trap

Yadhana Jadoo

A poorly functioning school system has done no favours for children born into poverty stricken households, according to a new report released by the SA Human Rights Commission.

Image courtesy stockxchnge.com

“Children born into such families are most likely to be caught in the poverty trap. The poorly functioning school system leaves them few opportunities to get a good education,” the report by Stellenbosch’s Economics Department stipulates.

“When they leave school, they are unlikely to find or to hold a job … If they do find one, it is not likely to be well paid or secure.”

This is despite the acceleration of economic growth which has decreased poverty and expanded opportunities in the country.

“Many of the unemployed have still not been drawn into the labour market, and those excluded are typically also marginalised in other ways. These are often the most poorly educated, still outside the mainstream, excluded not only from many economic opportunities but also from full participation in society.”

The report deals with poverty traps of which some interventions would be responsive to, and in it, special attention was given to areas, namely: health, education, wealth and assets, social networks and family, and geography.

“Children start with a severe disadvantage because they do not receive sufficient social, emotional and cognitive stimulation in early childhood. They then enter primary schools that are mostly unable to equip them with the skills needed for success in life, let alone make up for the large learning deficits they have already accumulated.”

Focus must be on the pre-school years and the primary grades as the human brain was “most malleable” in early childhood, and thus particularly susceptible to benefit or harm.

“The focus must be here also because the cumulative negative effects of learning deficits particularly for vertically integrated subjects like mathematics make full remediation impossible if the intervention is too late.”

Further to this, children who are ready to cope with higher educational phases successfully have been deeply eroded, it reads.

“Though problems in educational quality do not end at the lower levels, it is here that educational quality deficits must first be tackled.

“Two areas for intervention are recommended, namely improving (early childhood development) interventions to deal with school readiness, and strengthening the foundation phase in schools.”

Adding to educational issues is the inadequate provision of clean water and sanitation for schools. And despite schools offering feeding schemes to children, the food provided is often nutritionally deficient.

These were some of the “enabling environments” which could help children to escape the dire situation they are in.