Home » First-year dropout: South Africa’s untold university crisis

First-year dropout: South Africa’s untold university crisis

by Tia

While limited university allocations typically make headlines each year, as first year students move into the second semester of 2024, South Africa’s next silent crisis is beginning. Despite some awareness of this issue being created several years ago, very little progress has been made to stem the tide of South Africa’s high tertiary dropout rate and the long-term impact of poorly aligned subject choices. This leaves many student “dropouts” – along with their families, financially – worse off than they were before leaving school.

Making appropriate and practical choices regarding a career, and knowing what to study to get there, is critically important for school-leavers – ideally beginning as early as Grade 9. “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,” says Benedict Johnson, Fundi Executive Head: EBS and New Initiatives. “Our own research into this space currently supports the pervasively stubborn first-year dropout rate of 60%.”

Johnson notes that choosing the incorrect study path remains one of the key factors behind this statistic.

“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.”

Separate research published earlier in 2010 showed that one in eight students believed they had not made the right choice of study when they first chose 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.”

With many government schools no longer employing the services of guidance teachers, most school leavers are ill-equipped to make “lifelong” decisions. “As a result, they often turn to family members or peers or undertake limited research on their own. This means that these decisions are misaligned or misdirected; based on their individual biases or beliefs about what would be best or the ‘wisest’ for the learner and not based on 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,” notes Johnson.

“As a solutions provider in this space, we were challenged to better understand how we could positively influence these choices and avoid these negative outcomes. FundiMatch is our response,” he says.

A comprehensive psychometric career assessment platform, FundiMatch is tailored to identify individual students’ strengths, interests, and aspirations. “The platform tests everything from learning preferences to entrepreneurial tendencies, providing students with a comprehensive report about themselves. This means that they get a much better understanding of who they are – and what their ideal future career could be.”

Most importantly, FundiMatch puts power directly into each learner’s hands to make their own decision. “This is critical,” says Johnson. “It gives learners independent feedback about their own personal preferences, traits, and preferred ways of learning – as well as recommendations about programmes that fit their skills and interests.”

Assessments are conducted online and delivered in engaging, fast and interactive formats – only taking about 45 minutes to complete. The platform measures a variety of factors, including a learner’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values. Once the assessment has been completed, learners receive a detailed report that provides insights into their career path and the qualifications necessary for their chosen profession.

Benedict maintains that as a standalone tool, FundiMatch is not enough, however. “We urgently need to get it into the hands of the students who need it most. This includes those who are unable to pay for it themselves.” This is one of the reasons why Fundi is engaging the likes of tertiary institutions directly – to see where and how it can complement the registration process. “We’re also contacting funders for sponsorship and creating a means for these sponsored tests to be ‘paid forward’ to deserving students.”

“As Fundi, we are committed to enabling holistic student success. FundiMatch speaks to this directly. It is geared towards addressing very real challenges for students and enabling them to make informed decisions about their future,” says Johnson. “In this way it opens up a new sense of possibility and opportunity for them and brings them closer to realising their life’s dreams.”

Related Articles

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!