Almost a third of first-year students drop out

New research has revealed that 60% of university, technical and vocational education and training college students drop out in their first year of study.

Fundi, a finance and direct payment provider in the education sector, which conducted the research, blamed the high number of dropouts on various factors, including a lack of career guidance in schools and wrong subject choices.

The findings support earlier research published in 2022 by the North West University that one in three university students are likely to drop out in the first year. The prediction for TVET college was one out of two.


Fundi executive Benedict Johnson said a lack of career guidance, especially in government schools, leads to young people choosing careers that do not consider their aptitude.

One such student is Kutlwano Lekalakala who dropped out of South West Gauteng TVET College (SWGC) in her first year having not completed the national diploma in public management. The 21-year-old Lekalakala has about R6 000 in study debt, which she has to pay back to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. (NSFAS)

Lekalakala, who matriculated with a diploma pass in 2020, was accepted at the college for public administration, the only programme which had space available.

 “I didn’t know what I wanted to study. SWGC called me and offered me a place in the public administration programme. I didn’t even know what public administration was. I did some research after I had registered and found there were several careers that I could follow when I finished my qualification,” she said.

Lekalakala, who applied for NSFAS and got funding, said she passed her N4 but dropped out because of several reasons, including not having money to travel to school. “I did not get my allowance from NSFAS, and my family struggled to afford money for my travelling expenses,” she said. She lives in Lenasia South, and the college is in Dobsonville, Soweto.

She said that given the dire financial situation at home and her study programme, she didn’t have enough motivation to continue her studies. She dropped out halfway through her N5 semester. Armed only with a matric certificate, an N4 certificate, and a certificate in basic computer literacy from the community programme, Lekalakala has not been able to find a job.


“In addition to career guidance in school, we need career advice. Once you have your matric marks, the career advice is more relatable because it does not say, ‘You can be anything you want to be’.”

The dropout rate is not only a concern in the higher education sector. Presenting the stats on pupils who drop out of school to parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education in April last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said 3% of pupils in grade 7 and 9% in grade 11 drop out of school.

Motshekga said only 62% of pupils who enter the basic education system complete matric in the stipulated time, up from 55% in 2019.

Some of the measures the Department of Basic Education is implementing is to have a teacher or caring adult to provide support to the pupil. The department is also tracking pupils’ attendance and providing timely support.

Schools also provide meals, psychosocial support, and sexual and productive health services to keep pupils in school.

For assisting with career advice, Fundi has the FundiMatch, an online tool that helps young people identify individual strengths, interests and aspirations and to match them with the right careers.

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