Absenteeism among secondary school pupils.
Naidoo, Karthigesan Shunmugam.
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The overall aim of this study was to ascertain the nature of the differences that exist, in selected aspects, between two groups of pupils, viz. regular attenders and persistent absentees. More specifically, the research was designed to furnish information on the following issues : a) The incidence of absenteeism and truancy in Tongaat. b) The home and familial circumstances of regular attenders and persistent absentees. c) An examination of the differences, if any, between poor and good attenders with regard to maladaptive behaviour. d) The role of the school and school-related factors as contributors to absenteeism and truancy. e) The different conceptions that regular attenders and persistent absentees may have of the future. f) The reasons offered by teachers for pupil absenteeism. The sample (N = 153 pupils) was randomly selected from a list of five secondary schools in the Tongaat area. Pupils responded to a four-part Pupil's Perception Questionnaire (PPQ) designed to gather data relating to the home and familial circumstances, maladaptive forms of behaviour, the school and school-related matters and the pupils' perceptions of their future. In-depth interviews were also held with parents of the children in the sample. Teachers (N=116) were asked to offer what they saw as the more important reasons for the absence or regular attendance of the pupils. The major findings of the study were as follows: 1. The majority of absentees fall into the age category 15-16 years. Girls were often absent with the full knowledge and encouragement of their parents while the opposite was generally true for boys. 2. Absentee rates are not consistent throughout the year. Higher figures were recorded on a Monday and a Friday(days which coincided with the week-end) and on test days. 3. Poverty, parental ill-health, parental unemployment, single parent problems and alcohol abuse featured prominently in the lives of poor attenders. 4. Positive attitudes towards education on the part of parents generated similar attitudes in their children. In general, the converse was also true. 5. Poor parent-child relationships and a lack of communication with parents often resulted in ill-disciplined children who were frequently absent from school. On the other hand, children whose parents took a keen interest in their progress and welfare attended school more regularly. 6. Poor attenders showed greater alienation from the school and the values it represented than did good attenders. 7. Poor attenders highlighted characteristics of teachers' personalities that influenced them to be absent from school while good attenders highlighted those characteristics that encouraged them to attend school. 8. Persistent absentees tended to have poorer relationships with teachers compared to good attenders. 9. Troublesomeness in class was a reliable indicator of absenteeism and truancy amongst pupils. 10. Career aspirations of persistent absentees tended to be lower than that of regular attenders. 11. The curriculum, perceived by some children as irrelevant to their needs, was blamed for generating boredom and frustration. These, in turn, contributed to their absence from school or even dropping out. Evidence from various sources show that early detection and the proper treatment of absentees can produce positive results and thereby save the individual and society much unhappiness and wastage.lt is against this background that several recommendations are made. Schools, teachers and parents (individually and collectively) can do a great deal to curb absenteeism amongst pupils. It is vital for all interested parties to create a warm, accepting and congenial climate both in the home and school situation.