South African youth are growing up in a society which is markedly different from that of their elders. The transition to democracy in 1994 has brought with it exciting opportunities and challenges, but youth unemployment has also rocketed during the 1990s. A lot of research and policy work has focused on how to improve the South African education system. The role of the learners in this process has thus far not been scrutinised. This paper examines young people’s educational choices, using South Africa’s Time Use Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted in 2000. We show that attendance is far from universal, even in the age ranges where attendance is supposed to be compulsory. It seems that it is particularly poor in the farming areas. In addition, we suggest that punctuality seems to be an issue. Furthermore we show that around thirty percent of learners seem to arrive at school without having eaten breakfast. This pattern may be related both to poverty and to dieting among teenage girls. Differences between girls and boys show up in other areas also. Girls are expected to perform more chores than boys and as a consequence spend less time in leisure pursuits.