Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2006
Source: Herald, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2006 The Herald.

The national education department is to investigate the  reasons for 
the worrying number of pupils who drop out  of high school.

The department's directorgeneral, Duncan Hindle, says  concern for 
pupils who do not attend schools has led  the department to begin 
compiling statistics on pupils  who drop out of schools every year.

According to high school principals in Nelson Mandela  Bay, among the 
reasons for pupils dropping out is the  difficulty in adapting to the 
new Grade 10 curriculum,  which was implemented in January.

A "popular drug culture" among teenagers also kept  pupils away from 
school, principals said.

Preston Geswint, deputy principal of Masiphathisane  High school in 
Motherwell, said on average 10 pupils a  grade from Grades 8 to 12 
dropped out every year.  "Pregnancy is a big problem, particularly in 
Grade 12.  Some of the pupils come back after a year or two, but  the 
majority stay out and rather look for work."

KwaMagxaki High School Principal Mwezi Qomfo said: "Our  pupils 
compare us as teachers to druglords, who  obviously make more money 
and they choose that  lifestyle rather than pursuing a formal 
education and  leading a normal life."

Qomfo could not give statistics on how many pupils  dropped out each 
year, but said pupils left after Grade  8 as some found it difficult 
to cope with the new  curriculum.

KwaZakhele High School principal Mkhuseli Khungwayo  said pupils 
generally found the new Grade 10 curriculum  "too difficult" to adapt to.

"It is a new syllabus that needs total dedication, but  unfortunately 
pupils do not put in much effort. These  children come from 
single-parent families where they  are not disciplined and it is 
difficult for us to  enforce discipline because it is a foreign 
concept to  them."

Khungwayo said drugs and cellphone pornography, which  lead to 
pregnancies, were problems that caused pupils  to drop out of his school.

Tinarha High School principal Siyabonga Mafa said: "I  cannot give 
accurate statistics on how many pupils  dropped out this year, but I 
know that we have quite a  number of cases and the reasons are 
similar -- poverty,  difficult to deal with.

The national department called for parties interested  in doing the 
research to submit tenders by last week.  Department spokesman Lunga 
Ngcengelele said the  research would entail finding reasons and 
solutions to  the dropout problem.

However, he said, the department had done enough to  equip teachers 
with skills to teach pupils the new  curriculum.

"We have spent time and resources to train teachers all  over the 
country to deliver the new curriculum. It is  up to the teachers to 
make the curriculum more  interesting for pupils. It is interactive 
enough and  teachers must find innovative ways to teach."

Ngcengelele said when there was a "reasonable  suspicion" that pupils 
were carrying drugs at school,  teachers had a right to search them. 
"But that should  be done in a dignified way that maintains the 
pupil's  respect.

"In cases where pupils resist, the school should  involve school 
governing bodies, parents and even the  police."
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