This study used primary data from rural primary schools in Malawi and administrative data from the Malawi Education Management Information System to explore the impact of school bursaries and socio-economic status on girls dropping out of school. Lack of money to pay for school fees was a major reason for the high girl school dropouts. School bursaries appeared to help keep more girls in school and girls from households with better socio-economic status were less likely to drop out of school. The Malawi Government and its development partners should extend bursaries to needy girls in all secondary schools. Promotion of programmes that enhance household socio-economic status in rural areas should enable households to be financially capable of schooling their children.