KwaZulu-Natal is leading in the number of projected dropouts since the reopening of schools, a presentation presented to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Basic Education shows.
Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule and director-general Mathanzima Mweli were before the committee on Tuesday presenting on the state of the reopening of schools.
The presentation showed projected dropouts in KZN – by far the largest province in the country in terms of numbers – could be around 38 541 children in Grade 7 and 18 708 in Grade 12.
Mweli said the department had been tracking the attendance of pupils because it wanted to link it to the possibility of dropout rates.
"[It's] just a projection by provinces. It might be a worrying factor but it's very important for us. What we usually encourage provinces to do is to take the numbers of those who attend school, and then link it to the numbers of those who are at home, with comorbidities who are doing virtual learning, and those who are at home for home education and then the variation between all of those then gives you a sense of the projection of the dropout rate."
Limpopo has the lowest projections on dropouts, sitting at 87 for Grade 7 and 60 for Grade 12.
The Western Cape has a projected percentage dropout rate of between 5 and 15% for Grade 7. This would be between 4 600 and 13 900 of its 90 000 pupils in that grade.
Mweli added the department encouraged schools to follow up with pupils who were believed to have dropped out.
He said the department had also been tracking the attendance of pupils since they returned to school, combined with those who were learning from home.
According to the presentation, the attendance rate of grades 7 and 12 pupils in KZN was at 81.4 and 87%, respectively. Teacher attendance for both grades in the province stands at 82%.
The Western Cape recorded a physical attendance rate of 46.4% of children in Grade 7 and 70.4% in matric.
Mweli said the attendance rate of children in the Western and Eastern Cape was worrying.
The Eastern Cape has an attendance rate of 67.8% for Grade 7 and 77.3% for Grade 12.
He added it had received reports the Western Cape was reaching out to parents and encouraging them to take their children back to school.
"We know that experts have warned us that if learners stay too long at home, the likelihood is that some of them might drop out of the system, early pregnancies, social ills such as drugs taking their toll on some of these learners and so on," Mweli said.
He added since the start of lockdown, 10 048 teachers, 2 331 non-teaching staff and 3 270 pupils have been infected by Covid-19 nationally.
Four fatalities among pupils have been reported.
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