One of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals is universal access to primary education (age 7-14 years). Many positive strides have been taken, but there is still a long way to go.
Here are some things keeping children out of school:
- Sickness – Children are often sick, and they miss school so frequently that it’s hard to keep up. Some children become too sick to attend school at all. In Uganda, malaria costs children an average of 42 days in school absences each year. When a parent, especially the mother, falls sick, an older female sibling will often be called upon to provide care.
- Death of Parents – After the death of one or both parents, an older sibling often takes the role of a parent. Baby Finds Grace is children’s book used by our mental health teams to help children through grief and trauma.
- Hunger at School – For many poor families, school is the only place where children can expect a good meal. Reliably providing good meals is one of the top ways schools keep students from dropping out.
- Lack of School Fees – Even in nations with a public education program, households may still be responsible for many fees. When family resources are low, a family will have to choose one or two children to attend school while the others stay at home. Older children, orphans, and girls are most likely to be left out.
- Lack of School Supplies – Many families cannot afford fees for tuition, books, or uniforms.
- Work – Children may drop out to go to work. Children may be kept home to help with domestic chores or caring for siblings. Older children supporting younger siblings must work to have money for food and other needs. This is a major contributor to the dropout problem.
- Attitudes Toward Education – Younger children may leave school because their guardians do not feel that they are capable of learning at a young age, so they are kept at home. Guardians may consider a child’s education finished once the child has learned how to read and write. There is sometimes resentment toward the government’s education program because children who would not have gone to school are now required to attend, and parents find the added cost of uniforms, books, and supplies a burden the government should bear.
- Lack of Sanitary Pads – Girls often drop out of school because a lack of personal care products keeps them at home for some time every month. Eventually, they fall too far behind and drop out.
- Pregnancy – Girls who become pregnant will almost certainly drop out of school. Part of keeping girls from becoming pregnant is protecting them from abuse and transactional sex (sex in exchange for food, shelter, school fees, grades, etc.).
Photo credit: Jannik Skorna