ABOUT 20 400 pupils in the country dropped out of primary school in 2018, some after being married off, statistics by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) have shown.
The Government has since put in place measures to ensure every child has access to education.
Reasons for dropping out vary but the most dominant are financial constraints and absconding, which accounted for 15 919 drop outs. “Reasons for dropping out include absconding, death, expulsion, illness, marriage, pregnancy and financial constraints. A total of 9 200 pupils absconded school under unclear circumstances and 6 717 dropped out due to financial challenges,” read the report.
“About 1 154 pupils died during the same year and 2 164 dropped out due to other reasons which were not specified during data capturing. A total of 112 students were expelled while 180 dropped out of school due to early and unintended pregnancy and an additional 231 dropped after they were married off.”
According to Unesco, 624 primary school pupils dropped out of school due to illness.
“According to the statistics, about half the boys who dropped out had just absconded from school compared to girls. Of the total figure of pupils who dropped out of primary school in 2018, boys accounted for 11 070,” read the report.
In an interview, former Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said Government was already working towards addressing the challenge. “First, I believe some pupils end up dropping out because of the ignorance of their parents and guardians. According to Government policy, no child should be excluded from school due to non-payment of school fees and we have since reinforced that in the new Education Amendment Bill,” said Prof Mavima.
He reminded members of the public that the Government runs the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) which is still operational to help the less privileged.
“It’s the duty of every parent and guardian to ensure that less privileged children have access to free basic education. School heads are also obligated to ensure that no child is sent home for non-payment of fees as we have programmes like BEAM to cater for those with challenges,” the Minister said.
According to Prof Mavima, the countrywide school feeding programme was rolled out so that children do not drop out due to hunger or poverty challenges.
“The Government has since provided resources to cater for the protein component of the feeding scheme which includes beans, soya chunks and cooking oil. Yes, we were having challenges with the programme due to grain shortages but it is improving and we are happy that some schools are sourcing the grain through various partnerships,” he said.
Prof Mavima urged schools to use their resources to source grain while Government works on providing resources so that pupils have enough food during lessons.
He said schools that afford to roll out the feeding programme without assistance from the Government should go ahead so that the number of drop outs is reduced.
“Besides these programmes, we recently launched a programme meant to end early and unintended pregnancies as these account for a lot of drop outs in both primary and secondary schools. Together with our partners we are confident that when these projects are fully implemented, the number of drop outs will go down,” said Prof Mavima. — Chronicle