January 3, 2006

High drop-out rate for adult education

The education department will investigate the 50% drop-out rate among adult pupils sitting catch-up exams. Of the 61.116 people who enrolled for adult basic education courses last year, 32230, or 52,7%, wrote their exams, according to the department's report on the national adult basic education and training (Abet) exams.
Eradicating illiteracy has been a government priority and government's adult education programme, separate from formal schooling, was introduced in 1995 in an effort to aid the millions of adults left without an education in 1994. According to the 2001 national census about 18% of people older than 20 have no education at all, and 16% had some primary school education, meaning that in 2001 about 8,6-million South Africans - just more than a third of the population - are functionally illiterate, according to the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Prof John Aitchison. Only Western Cape showed a participation rate of more than 60%, with 75% of those enrolled turning up for exams. Project Literacy, South Africa's only national nongovernmental organisation focused on adult education, said the decline in exam participation was "due to high levels of unemployment and poverty literacy is seen as a luxury, not a necessity". Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and North West have the highest illiteracy rates in the country, with 21,9% of adults in KwaZulu-Natal having received no schooling. The figure for North West is 19,9% and is 33,4% for Limpopo. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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