University dropout crisis for South Africa

 ·8 May 2024

South Africa has a high tertiary dropout rate, leaving many families worse off than they were before the “dropout” joined university.

Although limited university allocations make headlines at the start of the year, South Africa’s dropout crisis is occurring as first-year students move into the second semester of 2024.

“With several studies on South Africa’s drop-out rate being completed in 2020, we have arguably – and unfortunately – made little progress in terms of actively addressing and overcoming this,” said Benedict Johnson from student loan provider Fundi.

“Our own research into this space currently supports the pervasively stubborn first-year dropout rate of 60%.”

Making appropriate and practical choices for a career and knowing what to study is important for school leavers.

Johnson said that choosing the incorrect study path is highly responsible for the high dropout rate.

Research published as recently as 2022 from North-West University (NWU), compared findings from 2004 – where one out of every three university students and one out of every two Technikon students were predicted to drop out of studying – against statistics from 2020.”

“Across the board, pressures on students causing them to drop out had increased significantly over time.”

Moreover, Fundi referenced a research from 2010, which showed that one in eight students believed that they made an error in their study choice when choosing their careers.

“Very simply, this was as a result of not having sufficient – or the right – information available when they made their choice. This was a critical contributor to their dropping out of university.”

In addition, many government schools no longer employ guidance teachers, leaving many school leavers unequipped when making long-term decisions, with many having to turn to family members or conduct their own very limited research.

The decisions are thus often misaligned and based on their individual beliefs and what would be the ‘wisest’ for the learner and not their aptitude.

“Should the student take this advice, they can find themselves dropping out within a few short months, possibly with a seemingly impossible debt to their name.”

Read: The biggest economies in the world in 2024: South Africa vs China, Russia and the USA

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