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Challenges encountered by primary school learners from single-parent households to attain academic achievements.

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Family is a powerful determinant of children’s learning and when the school and the home have divergent approaches to life and learning, it is the children who are likely to suffer. The environment at home is a primary socialisation agent and influences children’s progress at school and their aspirations for the future. Parents are mainly responsible for the educational and career development of their children, but divorce and separation for various reasons, or the death of one spouse, may leave multiple parental roles in the hands of a single parent, and it is often then when problems arise and children become victims of dissention and strife. The aim of the study was to explore the challenges that learners from single-parent households encountered in achieving academically. The study was conducted in a primary school in Newlands West, Durban. The study objectives were to identify the challenges encountered by primary school learners from single-parent households in their efforts to attain academic success, to explore the impact of these challenges on these learners, and to determine what possible solutions could be offered to address these challenges. The study was based on the economic hardship theory and the family systems theory. The study utilised a sample size of twelve participants; i.e., six learners from single-parent households, three educators, two single parents, and one school principal. Pseudonyms are used in this report to protect the identities of the participants and the school. The study employed an interpretivism research design. Semi-structured interviews, a focus group discussion and document analyses were used to collect the data that were analysed thematically. The results of the study showed that these learners from single-parent households experienced various challenges on their journey to attain academic success, which ranged from economic hardship, health problems, lack of parental care, and poor socialisation skills. In addition, their academic achievements were impacted by poor attendance, poor academic motivation, child abuse, bad behaviour, and lack of counselling. However, when schools make concerted efforts to introduce intervention strategies and address the academic needs of learners from single-parent families, the results may be positive, as this study was able to demonstrate. Based on the findings, it is recommended that learners from single-parent household be afforded concerted support with regards to the challenges they encounter so that they may attain academic success. There is a need for the involvement of all stakeholders (teachers, counsellors, parents, social workers) to assist these learners to overcome the many challenges that impact their attainment of academic success.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.