Learner absenteeism poses serious challenges to schools in their endeavours to
manage the phenomenon effectively. Schools should draw a clear distinction
between authorised and unauthorised absenteeism. The different manifestations of
learner absenteeism cannot be dealt with in the same manner, but requires actions
and/or sanctions which fit a specific type of absence.
This study explores the manner in which a secondary school, situated in a semiurban
area managed learner absenteeism. A detailed study of a secondary school
from the district Ekurhuleni (D4), situated in Gauteng East, was conducted. For
purposes of this study the following documents were utilised in attempts to address
propositions relating thereto: national legislation, the Policy on Learner Attendance
as well as ancillary documents relating to the management of absenteeism in casu.
In-depth interviews were conducted with the principal, educators and learners in
order to understand what their perception of absenteeism is, the reasons for
absenteeism, and how it is managed at the school. Interviewees were observed
over an extended period of time in order to further supplement the data.
The data presented, indicates that the school uses an advanced electronic system to
record learner attendance which is validated by manual systems for the recording of
learner absenteeism. The school has developed a learner Code of Conduct which
set the standards for school attendance as well as the sanctions applicable for
absenteeism. Despite these measures at the school, learners are still absent for part
of the day or a full school day. Absenteeism includes both authorised and
unauthorised absenteeism as well as valid and invalid reasons. Although the school
imposes sanctions outlined in their Code of Conduct, this has not eradicated the
challenge of learner absenteeism.
I argue in the study that different schools encounter different challenges regarding
absenteeism, to be addressed on an ad hoc basis. Each individual school should be
encouraged to develop measures to be incorporated in individual policies regarding
absenteeism. Special attention has to be given to valid yet unauthorised
absenteeism and how to manage it. It is therefore recommended that lacunae in the
Policy on Learner Attendance should be addressed accordingly to ensure effective
management of attendance.