Why is there a high dropout rate in South African universities?

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University dropout rates high
Source: UPTuks twitter 


Dropping out of university refers to students who give up on their studies before they finish their academic programme. In south african universities it is very common that students drop out after their first year of study. It has been found that 50-60 percent of South African students drop out during their first year of study (Dr. Andre van Zyl, 2015).

Financial problems

According to research it is said that the main reason why many student dropout during their first year of study is because of financial problems (Karen Mac Gregor, 2007). Many students do not usually realise that the cost of studying at a university/technikon is much higher than the cost of high school studies for most schools in South Africa. Only very few of the students who enroll in university come from expensive high schools which are equal or higher in cost than south african universities. The majority of students who do not come from these expensive schools are usually surprised when they have to pay registration fees which are near the same amount of money they usually pay for a whole high school year. Some even end up not registering for their courses. But fortunately for students there are many ways of finding funding for their studies such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), bursary schemes, loans, scholarships and other funding.

Academic pressure

Another reason students end up dropping out of university is because most students find it difficult to adapt to university academic pressures which are usually a lot higher than that of high school pressures. These students usually find the academic pressure overwhelming because each course they do requires so much time from the students and has assignments which are set independently from the other courses. This pressure is usually at its peak during the first few weeks of the semester which then leads to some of the students changing their original course of study to something else earlier on the year. Other students usually find the exam period quite stressful because to most of these students the exam period is a time to catch up as they were not working hard throughout the semester. This then increases the dropout rate since these students decide to abandon their original course of study after their first semester as they see they will not be able to pass enough courses to avoid exclusion at the end of the year.

Social life

The social life in university is quite different to that of high school. In high school most students live at the home and have less freedom of doing what they want to and are therefore confined to their parents will. For those students who live in boarding schools their freedom is limited by the rules of the boarding school making the students less likely to make irresponsible decisions. In University on the other hand, most students live in University Residences which usually have less rules than school hostels. When students arrive at university they are introduced to a more social aspect of university known as orientation week, orientation week is usually a very fun experience because many events take place and many students are under the impression that the rest of the year will be an orientation week and end up not putting as much effort in their academic work than they do in their social life. Which then leads to failing of courses and dropping out to avoid exclusions from the university.



Teaching environment

 The teaching environment in high school is very strict. There are attendance registers taken to ensure that learners are attending all of their classes, which ensures that they are learning as much as possible.  As a University student it is assumed that you have matured enough to make responsible decisions.  As a result in university most lectures do not take attendance registers and have no contact whatsoever with your parents to try and find out why you do not attend lectures. This is a dream come through to most high school learners. But is a lead to failure for some students in university because some students see this as an opportunity for them to bunk lectures which makes them more vulnerable to failing courses. Some students think that they can get better marks if they study on their own instead of attending lectures. But this is not the case. The work in University is usually much harder than the standard matric work so it becomes very important that students help each other with the work, this is what the tutorial sessions are used for.

Forced into doing a course

Another popular cause of dropouts is when students are forced into a certain course by their parents. These students end up doing this course without a slight passion for it and end up not putting much effort in their studies which results in them not performing as well as they should be. Some students end up dropping the course after some time increasing the dropout rate.

In conclusion, there are many reasons for dropouts in South African University, more reasons and other university experiences will be discussed in articles to come. For further reading go to http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20071025102245380 and http://www.enca.com/south-africa/student-dropout-rate-high

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