Between 2009 and 2014 and 2001 and 2011 education literacy levels and the number of learners attending school in South Africa have dropped, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).

Stats SA’s updated report on gender disparities in education between 2001 and 2014 assesses progress towards achieving greater access and improved quality in education through a gender lens.

The table below compares literacy levels among South Africans between the ages of 15 and 54, males and females living in rural and urban areas in 2009 and 2014.

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During the year 2000, South Africa was one of 164 countries who signed the Dakar Framework for Action, having committed to achieving education for all. Two of the commitments outlined in the framework includes achieving a 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.

But according to the table above, this goal hasn’t been fully realised as literacy only improved among those in 35 – 44 and 45 – 54 age groups, while the 15- 24 and 25 – 34 age groups saw.

The report also shows that between 2001 and 2011, the number of children not attending primary or high school at all in the Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, had increased.

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Some of the main reasons for not attending school, detailed in the General Household Survey, include a feeling of education being useless, poor performance at school and having to work.

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“The country appears to be facing some challenges in terms of goal number six of the Dakar Framework for Action i.e. ‘Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills'” Stats SA said.

Among the statistical service’s recommendations for helping to solve some of these issues are increasing the school-leaving age to 18 as the current benchmark is only set at 15 (or grade nine, according to how old someone should be if they enrolled at age six and did not fail).

“It is suspected that one of the reasons children do not finish school could be related to the fact that they are not forced by law to attend school after the age of 15 years,” the report said. “It is therefore hypothesised that increasing the official school leaving age will compel them to finish school and ensure that a relatively similar number of children who enter grade one also complete matric.”

Emphasising on a renewed focus on the developing of poor communities is also another recommendation noted to help tackle the school drop out and non-attendance rate.

“This would provide pupils with learning environments that affords them equal chances of achieving educational success,” Stats SA said.

[Source – Stats SA, image CC by CC Wikimedia Commons]