This comes after the release of the Independent Examination Board (IEB) matric results on Friday.
The IEB’s CEO Anne Oberholzer said independent schools have also felt the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown with a number of pupils dropping out of matric.
“While not immediately clear in the numbers, the impact of Covid-19 on the schooling population saw several learners withdraw from the year and postpone completion of Grade 12 until 2021,” she said.
Elkanah House Principal Angus Morton said: “It is a concern not just for schools but for the country. The country will feel this impact for students who have gaps and a year that students have missed of their schooling. It is going to cost us as a country.”
According to figures released by the Department of Basic Education in November last year, 114,588 public school pupils in the Western Cape could not be accounted for.
Figures have also indicated that pupils in other provinces could not be accounted for – this includes KwaZulu-Natal with 126,553, while in Gauteng over 55,000 pupils no longer go to school.
St Cyprians deputy Head of school and Student Life Thys Lourens said: “It’s a very important issue in South Africa at this stage, many of our learners come from very privileged backgrounds, unaware of what is happening to other students. We have tried to reach out to other institutions to assist them [where] there are others who need the help.”
In a statement on the school drop-out rate, Equal Education said: “The longer learners remain out of school, the higher the likelihood of them dropping out.
“This is especially true for learners who were already at risk of dropping out before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Learning losses can be hugely demotivating to learners – especially where peers were able to continue learning during school closures – and the increase in stress levels put learners at greater risk of dropping out.
“Where families are faced with increased economic pressures, they may need learners, especially those in higher grades, to work to support their families.”
At the reopening of schools in Mitchells Plain on Monday, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer urged pupils to stay in school.
“Please rethink that decision [of dropping out of school]. It’s really important for students to complete their schooling. If you don’t have the basic schooling it limits the chances of everything that youngsters do in life.
“From a Covid-19 perspective we have seen from research that the chances of it spreading in school is actually lower,” she said.
Schafer’s spokesperson Kerry Mauchline told News24: “Determining ‘drop out’ is tricky at the best of times, given that there are any number of possible reasons for a child to be absent from school.
“Attendance data is complicated by the pandemic, as daily attendance figures are captured for those physically at school – learners who are not meant to attend that day due to rotating timetables are then captured as ‘absent’ even if they are actually working from home.
“You also have a number of learners whose parents have applied for an exemption for their child to learn from home during the pandemic.”