College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Statistical Analysis of School Attendance Rates Subject of Cum Laude MSc

Mr Thabang Chabalala was ecstatic when he learnt that he had earned his MSc in Statistics cum laude. His thesis focused on the statistical analysis of school attendance rates among South African learners under the age of 20.

‘The lecturers in the Statistics Department motivated me to do my master’s at UKZN,’ said Chabalala. ‘They are so dedicated, which made me want to learn more from them and also improve my knowledge in an area that I am comfortable with. I wanted to grab as much information as possible.

‘My research aimed to determine the factors that affected education attendance in learners under the age of 20 who have not obtained matric. I noticed that there were learners who were not attending educational institutions, even though the government has assisted with a number of initiatives and interventions.

‘This made me wonder if there are factors chasing learners out of school. What new factors are causing them to leave?’

The statistical data used in the study was obtained from a generalised household survey, which included many factors that are linked to education attendance.

‘The results showed that, indeed, there are variables which are significantly associated with school attendance,’ said Chabalala. ‘After application of the statistical model which accounted for autocorrelation, the western part of the country showed lower school attendance than the eastern side. This means that further interventions are needed for that part of the country.’

Chabalala’s research will assist the government in navigating those provinces which need more interventions. ‘It will help educators and policy makers discover ways of dealing with different issues that push learners away,’ he said.

A number of people have played an important role in Chabalala’s life and his studies at large. He expressed his gratitude to his supervisors, Ms Danielle Roberts and Professor Temesgen Zewotir. ‘They were crucial to my studies and I will forever be grateful for their dedication and commitment in making my studies a success.’

‘Thabang was a pleasure to supervise,’ said Roberts. ‘His passion for Statistics poured into his work. No matter what obstacles he encountered, he always faced them with optimism and a bright smile, which will be missed in our Department. Thabang has a bright future ahead of him and I look forward to seeing him excel.’

Chabalala thanked his wife and family for their support and acknowledged financial assistance from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the South African Statistical Association (SASA).

Moving forward, he hopes to find employment in the banking industry. ‘There are multiple issues in this industry such as security breaches, changing business models and customer retention. I aim to use my Statistics training to help banks discover new ways of communicating information to clients, whether in a rural or urban area. It won’t be an easy task since there are protocols to be followed, but with time and opportunities, I believe a difference can be made.’

With a Master’s degree in Statistics under his belt with distinction, the future looks bright for Chabalala.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied