School campaign looks at why pupils drop out

An Ocean View police van accompanies pupils on a walkabout in Ocean View.

Kleinberg Primary School in Ocean View hosted a “back to school” campaign earlier this month to look at why pupils drop out of school and to find a solution to overcrowding in schools.

The campaign is run by the Western Cape Education Department’s Safer Schools Directorate.

Representatives from three Ocean View primary schools and from non-profit organisations attended the event on Tuesday February 7. They walked through Ocean View, met with residents and encouraged pupils to stay in school.

Kleinberg Primary School principal Denzil van Graan said, on average, primary schools in Ocean View had 40 or more pupils per class.

“Overcrowding makes classroom management challenging and impacts quality teaching and learning in the classroom.”

A shortage of teachers was also a problem as the WCED included principals and deputy principals in its teacher allocation process as if they were full-time classroom teachers and that meant schools had to hire school-governing-body-funded staff to provide a teacher for each class, he said.

“Principals and deputy principals have many administrative and curriculum management tasks and therefore cannot be in class full-time.”

Pupils who had been out of school for two to three years were often a phase behind their age cohort and they lacked prior curriculum knowledge to work at their age grade level, he said.

“A suitable education facility must be established to reintegrate them back into the school system.”

Marine Primary School principal Wayne Lawrence said poor parental control and supervision coupled with poor socio-economic circumstances were behind pupils dropping out of school, and drug use and gangsterism were also to blame.

Ocean View Community Police Forum chairman Mansoer Ismail said pupils dropped out of school because they struggled to meet the pass requirements, while others were too old for their class cohort.

“Parents need to discipline their children to make sure they stay in school. Many parents are unemployed, on drugs, or drunk and the children pick up on that.”

Children not in school were often street smart and earned money by running errands for drug lords so there was no incentive for them to be in school, he said.

Taryn McLullish, from Raising Consciousness, a non-profit that does a substance-abuse awareness programme at Kleinberg Primary School, said pupils who experimented with substances from a young age could become addicted causing them to become disinterested in attending school.

“They have cravings to satisfy and are unable to concentrate and make meaningful contributions in a classroom set-up.”

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said additional teachers had been allocated to the schools in the far south.

The WCED system, managed by schools, that tracked enrolments did not reflect the true cause for drop-outs as it did not reflect pupils “re-entering” the system or pupils that had moved to another school, she said.

Pregnant pupils might leave school for a short period and return, and, in some instances, pupils left school to assist their parents financially or act as caregivers to younger siblings.

However, in other cases, she said, it could be pregnancy and exposure to drugs and gangsterism that led to anti-social behaviour and truancy.

Pupils who did not read, write and calculate at the required levels were more susceptible to dropping out at a later stage, she said.

Parents had a responsibility to ensure their children attended school on time and were ready to learn, she said.

“If there is no oversight or interest from a parent/caregiver, then the risk is higher if the learner is not coping academically.”

It was a priority for the WCED to keep pupils in school and the department helped schools offer support to pupils who were at risk of dropping out, she said.

Kleinberg Primary School principal Denzil van Graan, left, with some of the participants in the campaign.