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The Magnitude and Causes of Dropout in Malawi: A Study of Chiradzulu District

Dropout is one of the problems many public education systems face all around the world. In Malm-vi, the problem worsened after l994 when primary education was made free and an influx of children came into the system. Soon after, the children started to quit. It is estimated that about 10 per cent of the children who were enrolled into primary school that year dropped out during the first six months of the school year. This trend is still going on, sometimes with as little as 25 percent completion rate (to the last class of the cycle). The study sought to provide an overview of the magnitude and possible causes of the problem in a district south of the country, in the light of literature available on the topic from within and outside Malawi. The study examined five schools in the district in terms of enrollment and dropout trends. It also administered a questionnaire to drop out as well as in-school children. Lastly the survey interviewed parents who have children who dropped out and Head teachers of the five schools. Generally, poverty, which is in this case comprise lack of food, good clothes and personal care and small school items top the chart in terms of causes. Handling of children by teachers comes second. School infrastructure, much as it is emphasized in other studies, did not come up as an important factor in this case. Again, despite much speculation on the potential of HIV/AIDS as a factor of the poverty in the area, the study did not have enough information to establish the link between HIV/AIDS, poverty and therefore, drop out. Perhaps it is an area that requires a different inquiry altogether. There was also little evidence for the speculation that children drop out of school to look after their sick relatives.
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