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Kizito Okechukwu

Kizito Okechukwu | October 19, 2023

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to deliver a keynote address to the Matric students of Roedean School in Johannesburg. Also in the audience were their parents, teachers, Grade 11 students and the school governing board.

 

It was such an honour to have been invited by the School Governing Board and Executive Director to address the school. Just less than a month before their exam’s finalization, I can imagine the pressure these young people must be facing. About 19 years ago, I wrote my matric examination and reminiscing on this day, I think of the daunting task ahead for them. It was encouraging and inspiring to see all these young people eager to write their exams and some of them shared their ambitions of becoming doctors, entrepreneurs, engineers, and many other vocations with me. With our education system currently facing high drop-out rates, it is truly heartening to see that these Roedeans have stayed the course. Sadly, it is reported that only 4% of students that start Grade 1 in South Africa end up with degrees.

 

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2021 close to 3% of 15-year-olds and nearly 9% of 17-year-olds dropped out of school. The General Household Survey 2021 indicate that although most 18- and 19-year-olds were still attending secondary school, almost three out of ten pupils aged 18 years (29,3%) and four out of nine (46,3%) of 19-year-olds had dropped out of school. Most 20-year-olds were not in education, with approximately 23% attending university, TVET or other colleges, while 18% were still attending high school.

 

The most prominent reasons for non-attendance of school in 2021 included illness and disability (22,7%), poor academic performance (21,2%) and lack of money for fees (19,6%).

 

Reasons given for dropping out of school differ by gender, especially for females who have to stop attending school due to family commitments (13,4%), while close to 5% of males stopped attending because they had no interest in education. Statistics South Africa added that the school drop-out rate is of particular concern because students who drop out of school prematurely will experience a lack of access to higher education, fewer job opportunities and lower wages than their peers who finished their schooling. According to the report, the 20-year-old age group is the largest group attending tertiary education, followed by the 21-year-olds (20,4%). By age 24, close to 8% were attending a tertiary educational facility with close to 90% of the youth not in education.

 

During my keynote address, I encouraged the girls to stay the course and the four principles I shared with them were Innovation; Commitment and Delayed Gratification; Resilience and Reliability. I believe that with these principles and the support of their parents, that the sky is their limit.

 

Roedean is a prominent all girls boarding and day school with a longstanding heritage and exceptional reputation as a centre of all-round educational excellence. According to Business Tech, last year the school was the best performing private school in South Africa, having achieved an impressive 4.64 distinctions per candidate. Part of my responsibility for the evening after the speech was to present prizes to those who have excelled in various school activities such as academics, sports, music, leadership and many more.

 

It was such a pleasure to share this evening with these young, bright, and eager minds, their parents, teachers, the School Governing Board, the School Head, and the Executive Director. I was inspired by all they have achieved and what they will still achieve in the near future.

 

As many schools start preparations for their exams, we can only wish all of them the best of luck and successful outcomes, as they prepare for the exciting roads ahead.

 

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest startup campus; and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.

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