- The DA says 221 626 Eastern Cape pupils dropped out of school between 2016 and 2018. That was enough to fill the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium five times over, it said.
- The Eastern Cape education department said that, when a child dropped out of school, it doesn't mean they had stopped learning, as some moved to new schools in other provinces.
- The Democratic Alliance has asked what happened to the Eastern Cape pupils who disappeared from the education system between 2016 and 2018.
A total of 221 626 Eastern Cape pupils stopped going to school between their Grade 10 enrolments and their final matric exams during that period, according to Eastern Cape education portfolio committee member and DA member of the provincial legislature Yusuf Cassim.
"That’s enough to fill the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium five times over," he said.
In 2016, 148 346 pupils enrolled in Grade 10, but only 65 733 wrote their matric finals in 2018.
That left 82 613 pupils unaccounted for. In 2017, the Grade 10 enrolment was 139 962, while only 63 198 pupils wrote their 2019 exams.
That's an additional 76 764 pupils who didn't complete their schooling.
In 2018, the Grade 10 enrolment was 135 175, but only 72 926 wrote their final exams, meaning a further 62 249 pupils were unaccounted for.
Cassim said that, when taking the Grade 10 enrolment into consideration, the real matric pass rate for the Eastern Cape was 36.76%.
"I will be submitting questions to Education MEC Fundile Gade, requesting that he provides a detailed report on what the Eastern Cape Department of Education is doing to address these astronomical drop-out rates.
IN NUMBERS | Matric 2020: National pass rate drops to 76.2%
"I will also be tabling a motion in the legislature to compel the [department] to track learners that have dropped out, assess the specific causes for the learners leaving school, and provide the necessary interventions, alongside other departments such as Social Development, to reintegrate these learners," said Cassim.
He believed the Eastern Cape drop-out rates could, in part, be attributed to overcrowding, lack of appropriate sanitation and infrastructure, lack of sufficient scholar transport, and insufficient qualified teachers to teach critical subjects.
"Sadly, there is no evidence that the [department] has made any efforts to track these learners, to reach out to them and understand why they dropped out, or to work to bring them back into the system. The [department] has failed these learners.
"The provincial government would never be able to address the rising youth unemployment in the province if it did not first address the systemic failures within the education department, added Cassim.
Eastern Cape education department spokesperson Vuyiseka Mboxela told News24: "There are many factors that lead to dropouts, such as moving from one province to the other, and also social economic conditions are a major contributor to that affect. Also, there is difference between dropping out of the sector and dropping out of the school where a learner was studying.
"More on this will be responded to when the questions are submitted in the Standing Committee by the said member."