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The Lost 500,000: SOS Africa Opens Remedial Centre as Part of Initiative to Start Stemming South Africa's Alarming School Drop-Out Rate
26 Jan 2017
As SOS Africa enters its 15th year, the charity’s staff and children are celebrating the opening of a brand-new education centre at Somerset-West Methodist School, South Africa. This new facility, generously funded by corporate sponsor Cover & Legal, will not only provide after-school support for children part of SOS Africa’s holistic education programme, but also remedial care for students with learning difficulties. This additional support has been introduced to broaden the scope of SOS Africa’s education programme to help both children with the greatest potential and those most likely to drop out of South Africa’s education system.
In preparation for the opening of the new centre, we looked to carry out research into the numbers of children in South Africa who are hindered by specific learning difficulties. It quickly became clear that this data, which should be widely available, is virtually non-existent. What we do know is that of the 1,303,016 children starting school in Grade 1 in 2004 only 801,688 from the same year group actually sat their matric exams. This means that the South African school system failed 500,000 students from that year group alone.
Throughout the past 14 years we have identified reasons for this alarming drop-out rate. We have witnessed for example, children often taught reading without comprehension and understanding of what they have read, meaning that little information is actually processed and absorbed. It is vital that time is invested into developing extensive reading programmes to get children to question, comprehend and absorb what they are reading.
As a starting point, the new centre will co-ordinate directly with the Methodist School staff to identify the children with reading difficulties. These pupils will then attend the centre each day until their reading levels improve sufficiently.
Western Cape Manager Anna Lusty is responsible for this new initiative:
“Starting by working with 36 children, our staff will be building literacy foundation blocks that are key to them advancing to higher grades and staying in the school system. With as many as 40 kids in under-resourced classrooms, this is a much-needed project.”
SOS Africa Chair of Trustees, Ann Crowcombe, who is herself a learning support specialist, hopes to develop similar centres throughout the country:
“Simply getting children through the school gates in Grade 1 is not enough! We must raise the standard of support available to ensure that all children, including those with learning difficulties, leave school with qualifications.”
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