Inside the lives of township high school working learners.
Mncwabe, Thembekile Christina Nomali.
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Learning thrives in conducive and supportive environments, and where a culture of learning is cultivated. There are many factors that distract learners from devoting themselves wholeheartedly to learning. This study takes a critical look at such factors, and the involvement of high school learners in the infonnal sector of the economy is identified as the focus for an in-depth interrogation. More specifically, the focus is on the reasons for learners' involvement in infonnal work, the type of work they do, as well as the impact of such involvement on their academic perfonnance. I have chosen to use the case study method in order to understand this phenomenon in one township high school, with a focus on Grade 11 learners as the study participants. Data was collected through a multi-method approach. This entailed a survey questionnaire, letters written by learners, and group and individual interviews. The life histories of learners were developed drawing from the data, and my own autobiography. Five learners, two boys and three girls, were selected to represent the voices of working learners through life histories. The findings of this study reveal that the kind of work activity engaged by learners is gendered, poorly paid, and makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and that poverty, education needs, culture, family structure, and size are the main reasons for children's involvement in the economic activities of the infonnal sector. Noting the magnitude of the problem, the study concludes with some recommendations whilst conceding that there are no quick-fix solutions to challenges of this nature.