Black students number 70% but are doomed with a 50% drop-out rate

More black students are enrolling in South Africa’s universities, but the drop-out rates for university and high school students are still alarmingly high.

The South African Institute of Race Relations’ latest Fast Facts report, which traces progress South Africans have made since 1994, noted that in 2012, 70% of all university students were black – an increase from 50% in 1995.

However, the report revealed that more than 50% of all students who enrolled for a three- or four-year degree, never finished their studies.

There are more older students, the report revealed. The proportion of students between the ages of 20 and 24 who are enrolled in universities has increased from 15% to 19% in the decade to 2012.

Access to basic education has also improved dramatically, with the proportion of South Africans aged 20 and above with no schooling having declined from 11.6% in 2002 to 5.5% in 2013.

The proportion of those with matric increased from 29.8% to 38.8%, while those with post-school education almost doubled from 3.7% to 6.9%.

However, such progress must be weighed against significant drop-out rates, said the institute’s chief executive Frans Cronjé.

“The Institute of Race Relations was the first to point out some six or seven years ago that only half of children who enrol in grade one will ever have the experience of sitting in a matric class,” said Cronje.

Of those pupils fortunate enough to make it to matric, only half will write mathematics as a subject. Also, only one in four matric pupils will pass maths with 50% or higher.

“Put plainly, if 10 children enrol in grade one in any given year, one can expect five of them to reach matric, three to pass, and at most, only one to pass maths with 50%,” said Cronje.

“There is no better way to explain the damage that the current school system causes to the life prospects of South Africa’s children and the reason why education policy reform is vitally needed.”

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