Alarming stats show large proportion of young adults not studying

2014-03-21 00:00

MANY pupils quit school for reasons ranging from lack of interest among boys, to being forced by circumstances to take over family responsibilities as girls.

Research by the Department of Basic Education lists various reasons why pupils do not complete their schooling. These include lack of money for fees; pupils who feel education is either useless or uninteresting; failure to perform well, failed exams, high fees, lack of books and large class sizes.

Pupils who live in rural areas are more liable to leave school for this reason to take on family responsibilities.

According to South African Institution of Race Relations (SAIRR) the number of five-year-olds attending schools has leapt to 81% between 1996 and 2011, while those aged 19 years and older are not attending an educational institution.

SAIRR researcher Thuthukani Ndebele said that according to Statistics South Africa the attendance rates at foundation phase, Grade R to Grade 3, have improved notably.

The South African Schools Act of 1996 stipulates that it is compulsory for children aged between seven and 15 to attend school. However, there are concerns about the noticeable dip among people aged 19 and older. The proportion of 19-year-olds attending an educational institution declined from 65% in 1996 to 59% in 2011.

“The decline in attendance at educational institutions by young people is particularly worrying,” said Ndebele, “given South Africa’s skills shortage and high youth unemployment”. He thinks 19-year-olds should be studying to better their prospects of employment.

“Only a small proportion of matriculants obtain bachelor’s passes, so it is important to improve access to Further Education and Training Colleges and to develop the quality of education that they offer, in order to accommodate those who cannot study at university,” he said.

According to the 2011 Education Statistics released by the Department of Basic Education last year the highest proportion of pupils in ordinary schools was located in the foundation phase in 2011. “As one moves up to higher levels within the schooling system, the proportion of learners decreases. Hence, in 2011 the FET band comprised only 20,2% of learners in ordinary school,” the report stated.

UKZN senior research associate Edith Dempster said most girls leave school due to teenage pregnancy or having to take over the role of an absent mother.

“You’ll find that mom is not at home and a girl takes on domestic responsibilities,” she said.

“A girl would wake up early in the morning to collect water and make sure that the family eats. It’s pretty hard.”

Dempster said boys usually lose lose interest in school. “But later when they realise that their life isn’t going anywhere, they want to return.”

However, she believes 19-year-olds should not be at school and young adults should rather opt for adult education centres,adding that the lack of adult education centres is a concern.

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