13 pc children out of school in 8 Tarai districts

[2013-01-17/ REPUBLICA/ NIRJANA SHARMA] KATHMANDU, Jan 17: Laxmi Sah, 13, has been working as a construction worker in Kathmandu for a year now. He is the native of Rautahat and poverty forced him to start working from an early age. Laxmi has not only left his family for work but was also deprived of education.

Laxmi is representative of the youths forced by poverty to quit studies and start working from an early age. If the statistics of the Department of Education (DoE), UNICEF and World Education is anything to go by, the Out of School Children (OoSC) rate stands at 13 percent in eight districts of the Tarai. These districts include Bara, Dhanusha, Kapilvastu, Mahottari, Nawalparasi, Rautahat, Rupandehi, Sarlahi and Sirha.

As many as 189,000 children in the 5 to15 year age group are out of school whereas 1.3 million are enrolled in schools from grade one to nine.

Most of the children regardless of age and gender said poverty is the biggest reason for them to quit school, while others cited long distance, language barrier and disinterest in studies.

More than 60 percent of the children said financial condition was the biggest hurdle whereas 17 percent said they were not interested in studies. While the government´s School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) aims to provide free and compulsory education to all, of the total children who were not in schools, 54 percent are aged 5 to 9 years and 25 percent 10 to12 years.

Similarly, 21 percent are between the ages of 13 to 15. In Rautahat and Sarlahi, 43 percent of the total number of OoSC that belongs to 5 to 9 years age group, the report states.

Shankar Thapa, a DoE official involved in carrying out the study said, “When asked some of the children expressed their interest in going to private schools as public schools do not have proper infrastructure. Others said they quit studies as their parents could not afford to send them to private schools.”

DoE Director General (DG) Lawa Dev Awasthi said the government has not taken the eight Tarai districts as problematic. He said the finding would help DoE plan the new strategies to encourage enrollment in schools. “The message is clear. The system should be overhauled to meet the needs of the children,” said Awasthi.

DoE and its partners selected the eight Tarai districts following the government´s flash report 2012 which found them the worst performers. The flash report claimed that though 95.1 percent children across the country are enrolled in schools, the eight districts were the worst performers.