Overage learners risk missing out on education altogether

Equal Education intern Yolisa Piliso steps in

Yolisa Piliso

More than half of all pupils in grades 10 to 12 in South Africa are overage for their grade, with one in five being three years older or more. Though one in 10 grade 1 pupils are overage and one in three pupils are overage by grade 4, repetition is much more common in high school than primary school. By the time pupils reach grades 10-12, more than 20% are three or more years overage.

Many pupils who are held back “never manage to acquire the knowledge and skills required to be promoted to the next grade, and many go on to drop out of the schooling system entirely”. From The Times

Yolisa’s story of a successful case he worked on as an intern at the Equal Education Law Centre deals with a young man age 17 who only had Grade 5.

Malibongwe (not his real name) was raised and schooled in the Eastern Cape until his mom passed away and he had to move to live with his aunt in Stellenbosch. He struggled to be enrolled at schools in the Stellenbosch area because he was 17 with only Grade 5. Social workers placed him in a school some distance away in Klapmuts  which he attended for a few months before COVID-19 struck and closed the schools. They struggled to get any assistance from social workers after that because mainstream schools cannot admit someone his age into Grade 6.

Kuyasa Horizon Empowerment, a non-profit that empowers children and youth of previously disadvantaged communities, sought assistance from the Equal Education Law Centre on Malibongwe’s behalf. The task fell to our Joel Joffe intern Yolisa Piliso.

“Taking into account the difficulties that the client might face in finding a school, I took the initiative to look for a possible school placement on his behalf. I began by contacting the Cape Winelands Education District and informing them of Malibongwe’s situation. They decided to place him at an ABET Centre closer to where he stays. Malibongwe was delighted. He said that he had been waiting for this chance for a long time, believing that basic education would set him on the correct path. Malibongwe was finally assigned to the Community Learning Centre in Stellenbosch. Here is the most recent correspondence I received from him:

“Good Day Yolisa
I hope this email finds you well. I apologise for not getting back to you with an update on Malibongwe. We had an appointment with Lynette two weeks back and they admitted him to the school immediately. He is beyond excited to be back in a learning environment with his peers. We are so grateful kakhulu bhuti for helping him get back to school, we truly appreciate all the efforts you took for him.”

It gives me tremendous pleasure to have such an impact on someone’s life, Malibongwe’s hope to access education has been rekindled.”

“A luta continua”