The impact of COVID-19 in education - more than a year of disruption

Type Working Paper - NIDS-CRAM Working Paper
Title The impact of COVID-19 in education - more than a year of disruption
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been put at greater risk of dropping out of school, lagging behind and losing learning, as well as food insecurity and emotional health
deterioration. All these issues, as they arise in the South African context, are considered in this policy paper. Specifically, we make use of all five waves of the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) data to estimate learner dropout/non-return to school, learning losses, changes in and the determinants of parent and caregiver concern and prevalence of depressed mood, child hunger, and access to school meals. These analyses build on previous work conducted on earlier waves of NIDS-CRAM that showed school feeding to lag behind pre-pandemic
levels, the majority of parents and caregivers to be very worried about learners returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 50-75% of a year of lost learning amongst foundation and
intermediary phase learners in resource constrained schools (Mohohlwane et al, 2020; Mohohlwane et al, 2021; Shepherd et al, 2021).

In this final policy paper update, we estimate attendance rates amongst 7– to 17-year-olds to be 4-5 percentage points lower than in pre-pandemic times. This implies a tripling of the number of
school-going-aged learners outside of the basic schooling system. Factoring in the expected days of in-person instruction lost over the first half of the 2021 academic year, we update our previous
estimates of learning lost to show that, since March 2020, as much as a year of learning may have been lost by learners in grades 1 to 9. The transition between NIDS-CRAM Waves 2 and 3—from
lockdown level 3 to a less stringent lockdown level 1—and Waves 4 and 5—from adjusted lockdown level 3 to a less restrictive adjusted lockdown level 1—are expected to be linked to significant changes in economic activity, food security, hunger and, potentially, caregiver concern about the return of learners to school. These transitions are explored using dynamic probit regression modelling. We find that although adult worry has declined significantly from 57% in February 2021 to 45% in April 2021, those living in poor, particularly food insecure households, are at greater risk of being very worried and showing signs of depressed mood than those living in less resource constrained households.. Child access to school meals is shown to significantly reduce the levels
of parent worry and depressed mood. Finally, we update prior estimates of excess teacher deaths in pandemic times and find the number of excess teacher deaths reported during the 10-week long
first term of the 2021 school year (15 February to 25 April 2021) to be 171. This is compared to just more than 1,100 excess teacher deaths during the 8-week long December/January holidays that
corresponded with the second wave.

Related studies