School drop-out rate in Nepal ‘staggering’

- Weena Pun, KATHMANDU
School drop-out rate in Nepal ‘staggering’

Jan 30, 2014-

In Baitadi, a 12-year-old boy receives Rs 300 a year from the state to attend school. If he hauls goods on the back of his donkey, he earns Rs 9,000 a month. The earning goes higher if he listens to the voice of his community and leaves for Mumbai in India.

The boy is a part of an ongoing research education expert Bishnu Karki is conducting for Unicef’s global initiative on out-of-school children. The initiative seeks to understand the barriers that keep children away from formal education.    

The research in four districts of Far-western Nepal—Bajhang, Bajura, Doti and Baitadi—has revealed that the perceived low returns of education is one of the major reasons driving children away from school.

“As long as there is a disconnection between livelihood and education, children will have no motive to complete basic education. Why go to school if an adolescent can earn hundreds of thousands picking yarsagumbas?” asked Karki at a programme organised in the Capital.

According to a flash report 2012-2013 published by the Ministry of Education, only 69.4 percent of the students enrolled in grade 1 make it to grade 8. According to the Nepal Living Standard Survey (NLSS) 2010/2011, the percentage of population aged 6 years and above that never attended school is a staggering 34 percent. And this problem is not limited to rural areas.

“We have failed to disseminate the value of education and make it more relevant to local contexts and their needs,” said Lawa Awasthi, director of the Department of Education, at the same programme. Awasthi, also from Baitadi, said that even he almost went to Mumbai for work. Although surveys like the NLSS have been carried out to understand the reasons behind never-attendance and dropouts among school-going children in Nepal, an in-depth study of the ‘invisible’ children is yet to take place. Neither has there been any special programme dedicated to these children.

Consequently, Nepal will be a part of the second phase of the Unicef’s global initiative on not-in-school children. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were part of the first phase, a report on which was launched at the same programme on Wednesday. According to the report, 32.86 million South Asian children between the ages of 5 and 13 are not in school. These figures are only lower than those in Sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the initiative, Nepal will soon form a national task force to address the issues of out-of-school children.

Now that a step has been taken to understand the relationship between education and community, Karki hopes that the traditional role models, such as lahures and migrant labourers, will be replaced by educated youth. 

Published: 30-01-2014 10:09

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