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Boys more likely to drop out of school according to research

A boy looks on as children at a primary school take part in group activity. File picture: Candice Chaplin/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

A boy looks on as children at a primary school take part in group activity. File picture: Candice Chaplin/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jan 26, 2022


Cape Town - A report from the Zero-Dropout Campaign (ZDC) revealed that boys are more likely to drop out of schools than girls due to the complex gender roles and norms that are applied to them during their schooling.

The report makes use of the latest qualitative research and explores how gender intersects with other social inequalities to shape learners’ disengagement from school.

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Titled “School Dropout: Gender Matters”, the report suggests that the gendered expectations, pressures and stereotypes can unsteady learners’ progress on their path to school completion.

ZDC head of communications and advocacy Rahima Essop said: “Dropout comes at the end of a long process of disengagement in which learners are pushed or pulled away from school because of factors at home, at school and in their communities.

“When educators, school leaders and decision-makers are aware of the factors driving disengagement and drop-out, they will be in a better position to implement drop-out prevention strategies,” Essop said.

It showed that over the last 10 years, the number of boys writing matric has declined, indicating boys are dropping out of school more often than girls.

The research also suggested that because boys are socialised into violent forms of masculinity as early as primary school, they are particularly vulnerable to physical bullying causing a lesser sense of attachment and belonging to their school.

Several other factors that are most common among boys can also lead to boys dropping out, including pressures to serve as providers in a single-parent household, joining a gang, substance abuse and corporal punishment.

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ZDC worked with the Masibum-bane Development Organisation on the report. Education programme officer Nomfundiso Rafuza said: “For boys, our mentors were able to see patterns where their behaviour was influenced by peers and older people within their communities.

“Often this led to them being involved in criminal activities, and in extreme cases, even becoming gangsters. This tends to lead to eventual dropout.”

The research also highlighted the ways in which teenage pregnancy negatively affects the way girls are viewed at school, which is both a cause and a consequence of girls dropping out of school.

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Evidence indicated that among learners in Grades 10-12, approximately 20% are three or more years over-age, having repeated grades. In the same vein, boys are more likely to repeat grades than girls making them disengaged from school.

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Cape Argus

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