A study of absenticsm and it's effects on academic achievement among marginalized urban children
Gitonga, Francis Mwangi
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A large proportion of pupils who enroll in the first grade of primary school do not complete this within the prescribed minimum period and a significant number do not complete the cycle at all. This has been attributed to high rate of educational wastage. One factor which contributes to educational wastage is persistent absenteeism of pupils from school. This study investigated the problem of absenteeism and its effects on pupils academic achievement. The subjects of the study consisted of standard seven primary school pupils (N=520) and their teachers (N=70). Purposive sampling was used to select six schools located in marginalized areas in Nairobi. The problem of educational wastage is more pronounced in marginalized urban areas (UNICEF 1993). An Ex. post Facto research design was used. The tools used for data collection were; school records, questionnaires for pupils and teachers, ability and achievement tests. The dependent variable was absenteeism which was blocked into three main levels of good attendants, fair attendants and persistent absentees. Five sub-test of IDEA battery were used as covariates to control for scholastic aptitude statistically. The findings of the study showed that the rate of absenteeism was higher in the first month of each term than in the second and third months. The rate of absenteeism was higher in the first months of term 1. The overall absence frequency in the first term was higher than in the second term. The overall average absence duration in the six schools was five days in two school terms. There were school specific differences in the pattern of absenteeism. Analysis of variance was used to investigate the relationship between gender and absenteeism. The F value of .35 was not significant (P0.01, 518,1 DF). Therefore there was no specific gender effect on the rate of absenteeism. There was a negative relationship between absenteeism and scholastic aptitude. Correlational analysis showed non-significant effect of pupils' socio-economic status on the rate of absenteeism. This could have been due to restriction of range among variables used to measure pupils socio-economic status and the nature of the sample. Analysis of covariance was used to investigate the relationship between absenteeism and academic achievement. The F ratio of 82.23 was significant (P,0.01,519, 1DF). Absenteeism of pupils from school affects their academic achievement when scholastic aptitude is statistically controlled. Pupils who are persistently absent from school underachieve and this may lead to their dropping out of school. According to teachers and pupils' opinions, the main reasons which caused pupils to be absent from school were illness, lack of school dues and lack of learning materials. There were gender differences in reasons for absenteeism. More boys than girls were absent because of truancy, engaging in paid employments and slum community influence. More girls than boys were absent because of helping with household chores, parental withdrawal and maturation problems. Certain school based factors like teacher-pupil conflicts, poor methods of teaching, excessive punishments and excessive homework contributed to pupils absenteeism from school. The most important make-up programmes which could assist pupils learn what was missed were copying notes and discussion with other pupils. The most important intervention programmes for dealing with absenteeism were, provision of learning materials and financial assistance to needy pupils, improving methods of teaching and teacher-parent discussions. The above findings lead to silent emerging issues for schools, policy makers, parents and researchers. Teachers should organize counseling programmes which should emphasize the importance of education to both pupils and parents. Schools should emphasize rewards rather than punishments. The curriculum should be sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of wide variety of pupils. The topic of school absenteeism should be covered in all teacher-training programmes from multi-disciplinary approach. Parents should provide their children with learning materials and pay school dues on time. Parents should also be involved in the life of the school. A cross-sectional study should be carried out to determine whether there is a significant relationship between absenteeism and age or level of schooling. A longitudinal study should also be carried out to determine nature of relationship between absenteeism and dropout.