As Child Protection Week kicks off, the quality of education in South Africa has researchers concerned. With approximately only half of the one million learners who began grade one in 2003 completing matric in 2014, eight per cent of which qualified for university, the education system is seeking alternate mechanisms to improve policy. In order to provide insight into the state of children rights within the country, the South African Child Gauge has been working closely with policy makers to assist in finding viable solutions to improve the quality of education in the country.
First published by the Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town in 2005, the South African Child Gauge is the only publication to provide an annual snapshot on the plight of South Africa’s children.
The programme annually focuses on critical issues that impact the welfare of children, whilst gathering the latest research evidence in order to enhance policy and encourage a review of legislative developments.
Child Gauge, which began as a small publication, today boasts over 150 academics from across South Africa.
The 2016 publication, which is scheduled to be released in November, will focus on Children and Social Assistance.
Child Gauge ‘s Commissioning Editor ,Lori Lake, explained that the programme was initiated to monitor the realization of children’s rights in South Africa, as evidence is brought to bear on decision-making programmes for children.
“So essentially, what we are doing is bridging the gap between academic researchers and policy makers in government.”
She said that while children’s rights require more attention, South Africa has made strides in improving children’s rights within the last 10 years.
The researchers discovered that child poverty, which in 2003 stood at 74 per cent – three in four children were living in poor households – today, these stats have improved to 54 per cent.
Lake said that child poverty stats was greatly impacted by the expansion of child support grants, which reaches over 11 million children.
While children’s basic sanitation has increased to 72 per cent, the mortality rate of children under five years of age has decreased, which lake explained is due to the mother to child transmission programme.
Lake further noted that the introduction of Grade R assisted in improving access to early childhood education, which now stands at 91 per cent.
While access to basic education remained universal, throughout the past ten years.
Though education stats are improving, she said that the quality of education needs to be assessed.
Lake explained that the high level of school dropouts directly impacts the level of employment, since 37 per cent of youth were recorded as unemployed in 2015.
“While access is high, we have to question the quality of education… [since] there is a very unequal schooling system in South Africa. Poor quality of education as early as grades one, two, and three culminates in a high level of school dropouts once children reach grades nine, ten, eleven and twelve,” she continued.