Failing boys : poor achievement and the construction of masculinity of six Indian boys in a secondary school in Chatsworth, Durban.
This research project investigates the ways in which six Indian boys who have been officially proclaimed failures in grade 11 construct their masculinity in Meadowlands Secondary School, a predominantly Indian technical secondary school in a working class area of Chatsworth. The way in which failing Indian boys construct their masculinity is under-researched in South Africa. When boys are officially declared academic failures by the school, they often take other ways to validate their masculine identities. This study focused on the complex relationship between their academic failure and the formation of their masculinities. Drawing from semi-structured in-depth interviews with six boys who failed grade 11 in 2003 and are currently repeating grade 11 in 2004, the study shows the complex relationship between school failure, and the formation of boys' masculinities in three areas. These areas are the formal academic dimension of schooling, the informal social dimension of schooling and outside school activities. The major fmdings from the interviews indicate that boys construct their masculinity by resisting the demands placed on them in schools and engage in disruptive activities. They find alternate power and prestige in wearing brand name clothes, wearing jewellery, carrying cellular phones, having girlfriends, clubbing, taking drugs and joining gangs. They find school boring and equate academic achievement with being feminine and thus being gay and resist doing school-work. They are thus able to construct their masculinities in ways that are anti-school and anti-authority. The study concludes by suggesting that failing boys at MSS are in trouble and that schools and teachers must be more alert to why failing boys behave in the ways that they do. At MSS it is suggested that the school encourages the development of sport as a way of exposing boys to different ways of being a boy.