The Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Its Impact on a Child's Classroom Performance: A Case Study of a Rural South African School

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug 9;14(8):896. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14080896.


Alcohol consumption is high among farm labourers in the Western and Northern Cape of South Africa. Excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy is common, resulting in a high prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) among children. FAS causes intellectual and behavioural problems, which create considerable obstacles to a child's education. The aim of this study is to provide a prevalence estimate of FAS in a rural school and to examine the effects of FAS on learners' educational outcomes. The study was conducted at a farm school near Clanwilliam in the Western Cape of South Africa. The sample comprises 166 learners from Grades 1 to 4. Educational outcomes include class scores (Afrikaans Home Language and Mathematics), reading ability, and classroom behaviour. A physician diagnosed FAS using a three-stage process. We find FAS prevalence of 127 per 1000 (12.7%). Children with FAS score significantly lower (at the 10% level) for home language and behaviour than children who do not have FAS. Large-scale interventions in rural areas of the Western and Northern Cape that specifically target females of child-bearing age, as well aschildren with FAS, are necessary.

Keywords: alcohol; binge drinking; dop system; fetal alcohol syndrome; pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • South Africa / epidemiology