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According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, absenteeism is "chronic absence." In the context of school, it is the habitual or intentional failure to attend school. While every student may miss some school activities now and then, absence becomes a problem when the student is away from school for many days.
Going to school regularly is crucially important for a student’s education and social skills. Chronically absent students are at a disadvantage both socially and academically. They miss out on critical stages of social interaction and development with their peers, while simultaneously limiting their academic progress. This can result in low self-esteem, social isolation, and dissatisfaction that could well have precipitated non-attendance in the first place.
School absenteeism is an alarming problem for administrators, teachers, parents, society in general, and pupils in particular. Unaccepted absences have a negative effect on peer relationships, which can cause further absences. According to Malcolm, Wilson, Davidson and Kirk (2003) teachers identified the effects of absenteeism on children as:
- academic under-achievement.
- difficulty in making friends which could lead to boredom and loss of confidence.
- prolonged absence can have deleterious effects for the child in later life.
- students who are absent from school are at the greatest risk of dropping out of school early.
Absenteeism also affects the teacher’s ability to present classwork in a sequential and organized way. This can have an effect on the progress of all the students in the class.
Families of habitually absent students can also suffer. For a poverty-stricken family, it may mean a continuation of the poverty and unemployment cycle that may run in the family. This also contributes to family conflicts.
Society also suffers when school-age children are not in school. These children may hang out on the streets. Since they have nothing to do, they resort to petty crimes like stealing other people’s belongings and property. Others may become addicted to drugs or engage in other destructive behavior. Thus, if a student keeps away from school for too long, he may grow up to be a liability to his community and his country as a whole.
It is the aim of every school to lessen, if not eradicate, absenteeism among its students. One way of addressing this problem is to identify the causes of truancy. Once they are singled out, understood, and analyzed, these issues may be addressed with specific actions and measures. This will eventually result in the better performance of the students, teachers, and the school in general.
It is in this context that this action research was undertaken, that is, to identify the causes why the grade VI students in this school absent themselves from their classes.