The impact of disruption in education in South Africa since the COVID-19 outbreak put the learners between 75 percent and a full school year behind where they should be, said UNICEF South Africa (UNICEF SA) on Thursday.
UNICEF SA said their research indicates that learners have lost 54 percent of learning time due to rotational attendance, school closures and days off for specific grades.
Some 400,000 to 500,000 learners have reportedly dropped out of school altogether over the past 16 months. This is most likely for children living in informal urban and rural settings, with household poverty also playing a critical role. The total number of out of school children is now up to 750,000.
“The reality is that South Africa cannot afford to lose another learner or another hour of learning time. It is urgent that we get every child back into the classroom, safely, now,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF South Africa representative.
She said, “Remote learning has been a lifeline for some children but for the most vulnerable in South Africa, even this was out of reach. Access to the devices, data and skills necessary to navigate online resources are simply not possible for many children. We need to ensure that we prioritize vulnerable girls and boys in all our efforts to keep children in classrooms.”
She stated that when children are out of school it leads to learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, missed school-based meals and reduced development of social skills.
Muhigana said recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng gave the education system another shock with more than 140 schools being vandalized.
UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to help regain the ground lost by taking advantage of emerging technologies to accelerate education service delivery, while focusing on equity and broader partnerships for greater impact. Enditem