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School Drop Out and Universal Primary Education: Causes and Suggestion of Possible Solutions

1.0 Introduction

Since the early 1960’s, the provision of Universal Primary Education (UPE) has been rated highly among the development options of the developing economies, and a target to be achieved in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in the year 2015. In developing countries the number of children starting primary school is highly interesting but the level of drop out is significantly high which lowers the level of primary school completion in most of the countries. For example, in Democratic Republic of Congo the primary school completion rate is 51%, 62 percent, in Benin and in Bangladesh the completion rate has remained around 60 percent since the year 2000 (Akyeampong, Westbrook & Hunt, 2010). This high dropout rate has led to many children quitting in their early school years without even obtaining the general basic skills. This research paper aims to analyze the reasons why there is an high rate of school dropout in developing countries especially in the sub Saharan Africa by analyzing the previous research, ministry reports of some country and articles published related to drop out rates in developing countries to arrive at a the main ideas why this is happening. The children who drop out of school are motivated to do so due to unequal learning opportunities, under un qualified teachers in overcrowded classrooms (Alexander, 2008), mixing children of different ages without the adaptation of corresponding teaching method to induce learning (Little, 2008),motivational factors including personal and family issues such as poverty, ill health and malnutrition.

2.0 Problem Statement

Children in developing countries are influenced to drop out of Universal Primary Education schools due to the unequal learning opportunities provided by unqualified teachers in overcrowded class rooms (Alexander, 2008), mixing children of different ages without the adaptation of corresponding teaching method to induce learning (Little, 2008), motivational factors as well as personal and family issues such as poverty, ill health and malnutrition which requires serious steps to be undertaken by the UN to solve these problems in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in the year 2015.

3.0 Arguments

3.1 Un-Equal Learning Opportunities The learning opportunity the marginalized children who studies in UPE schools are exposed to is limited when compared to the private and expensive schools in the developing countries in turn they end up dropping out of school. This is one of the main obstacle to achieving universal primary education which arises form biases based on income, ethnicity, gender, disabilities and language (Mutenyo, 2010) which mostly affects the girls and children from poor communities. Additionally most of the schools in developing economies are underfinanced and under-sourced which results into poor services offered in the schools, which forces the children to dropout. The 2009 World Development Indicators has revealed that only half of the children who enroll in primary school reach grade 5 in Uganda with the same situation mirrored across other African countries. This raises the concern over the inequality of the facilities provided in the primary schools. This calls for the provision of equal learning opportunities in all schools through provision of identical schools in all the region of a country with the same settings and infrastructures.

3.2 Un-Qualified Teachers The schools in developing countries employ un-qualified teachers to teach children in schools and they end up providing low quality education which makes learning quite difficult for the children cope up with hence dropping out of schools. In relation to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2010) which indicates that 1.7 million new extra teachers are needed globally to achieve the Universal Primary Education goal by 2015, unfortunately the governments in developing countries have failed to recruit the required number of teachers in primary schools. However, the governments still needs to raise the stock of teachers to meet UPE, which has induce the governments to lower the minimum qualification for the teachers so that more can easily come in the system. In some countries, this has created the need for under-qualified volunteer teachers to be recruited to fill the need.

3.3 Over Crowded Class Rooms One of the challenges faced by the marginalized children attending primary schools in developing countries is having to sit in an overcrowded class rooms with poor quality facilities due to the limited infrastructure put in place by the government especially in rural areas. This class rooms are so packed that the teacher cannot attended to all the pupils in case there is need for further clarification which forces the children to quit school and resort to other activities at young age. Due to the increase in enrollment of children under UPE program, there is overcrowding in the class rooms, studying in shifts, shortage of teachers, studying materials and text books (Avenstrup, 2006) which requires the construction of more new class rooms in the rural areas of developing countries.

3.4 Mixing Children of Different Ages The schools in developing countries enroll children of different ages in grade one which in later stages of education turns out to be the reason why some children dropout of schools. EPDC (2009) findings in 35 countries confirms that there is a positive correlation between the age of pupils, grade and dropout rate at the end of primary school level. Even if, mixing children of different age bracket is essential in bridging the relationship and foster learning from one another, the result of the mixture does not favor the over aged children either economically or socially. In all the 35 countries the study shows that, children who are over age by two or more years have a high chances of dropping out of school by the end of primary school or even before finishing school. This calls for the management of the schools to make sure children in their communities enroll in primary school at a relatively same age such that they can easily compete with each other and create a conducive class room environment for the children to minimize the dropout cases. In case the class rooms contain children of different age bracket, the teaching method should be revised to suite the need of children with different age and requirements.

3.5 Family Related Problems Extreme poverty is the biggest problem leading to school dropout in most of the developing countries is the existence of disadvantaged families surviving on low income of less than a dollar a day. This makes it hard for the families to pay for school requirements or even provide some of the basic scholastic materials. For example, in Nepal the dropout rate is 8.7 % in the last 10 years and parents prefer all the children in their families to work rather than go to school in order to support the families as because they barely earn less than 1$ dollar a day (Koirala, 2012). The same condition is experienced by children in other developing nations which leave in extreme poverty which are in some cases much worse than the case in Nepal. Due to the biting poverty and influence from the parents children are forced to drop out of school and sees schooling as an addition to the family problems. In order to achieve the goal of providing universal primary education, policies to eradicate poverty should be considered paramount especially the girls which end up being exploited by older men and get pregnant or into early marriage ending up not going back to school again.

Ill health of the children is another factor causing some children to drop out of school especially the ones with disabilities who tend to find it hard to cope-up with the conditions and structure of the schools. This is basically caused by malnutrition which affects their concentration in class consequently leading them to drop out of schools to avoid the suffering. In most schools in African countries, the government does not provide meals to children. For example a 2009 state of Uganda Population Report states that, malnutrition due to food insecurity causes 40% of death in children in the country (Mutenyo, 2010). The existence of malnourishment in children impedes their mental and cognitive development which in turn affects their concentration and participation in class and other learning activities which lure such children to drop out of school. Therefore, provision of meals in schools is a key to reducing children dropout rate in the developing countries and the provision of health facilities like the deworming tablets to improve the health of children so that they can concentrate on their studies.

3.6 Factors Affecting Motivation and Decision-making on Education Access For a child to decide to attend school and persevere to complete studies requires some motivation from the outside. It can be from the family members, parents or even the benefits the child would get as a result of going to school. These factors help in understanding the reason why some children resort to drop out of school. The possibility of children to progress in secondary school and the provision of high quality education in schools determines the decision by the child and the parents on whether, they should continue with school or not. In relation to Pakistan case, children whose parents especially the mothers have gone through education up to the higher level are motivated to continue with school than the children whose parents have not received any education at all (Lloyd, Mete and Grant, 2009). This calls for parents intervention in ensuring that there children are encouraged to attend schools by giving them emotional support and confirming the possibility of paying for their secondary and tertiary education to enable them get good jobs in future.

4.0 Conclusion Form this research paper it can be noted that, the causes of the high rate in school dropout among children in developing countries are the unequal learning opportunities the children are exposed to under the universal primary education umbrella. Secondly, the children learn in overcrowded class rooms due to enrolling large number of students in the initial grade one and the use of unqualified teachers due to poor training facilities and large pupil to teacher ratio in most of the schools. Thirdly, the children are influenced to drop out of school due to the mixture of pupils of different ages and no accompanying teaching strategy to solve the age gap and encourage learning as well as other influences on the older pupils like the need to get married or earn extra income for their families. Fourthly, the children from the marginalized communities face personal and family related problems such as biting poverty, poor feeding and malnutrition since meals are not provided in most of the schools, and the ill health due to frequent attack by diseases. Additionally, the children are influenced by motivational factors and decision making factors which may be potential future benefit from attending schools or encouragement form the parents. All in all, in order for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) of 2015to be effective, there is need for the adoption of best policies to eliminate this vices which tend to influence the rate of drop out in most of the developing countries. The policies that are recommended to lower dropout rate include offering school feeding programs, educating mothers to elevate poverty, offering school health programs, constructing modern and larger classrooms, enrolling students of the same age in primary schools, training more teachers and encouraging parents to motivate their children to go to school.

5.0 References 

Akyeampong, K., Westbrook, J. Hunt, F. (2010). School dropout: Patterns, causes, changes and policies. Prepared for the education for ell global monitoring report 2011. University of Sussex. Alexander, R. (2008). Education for all, the quality imperative and the problem of pedagogy. Create pathways to access No 20. Consortium for research on educational access, transitions and equity: University of Sussex. Avenstrup, R. (2006). Reducing poverty through free primary education: Learning form the experiences of Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda. In Fox, L. & Liebenthals, R. (Eds.), Retrieved December 23, 2013 from,+2006) Education Policy and Data Center (2009). Pupil performance and age: A study of promotion, repetition, and dropout rates among pupils in four age groups in 35 developing countries. Working Paper EDPC-09-02. Washington DC: Education policy and data center. Koirala, N. P. (2012). Poverty and the school dropout rate in Nepal. You think. Retrieved December 26, 2013 from Little, A.W. (2008). Size matters for EFA. Create pathways to access No 26. Consortium for research on educational access, transitions and equity: University of Sussex. Lloyd, C.B., Mete, C. and Grant, M.J. (2009). The implications of changing educational and family circumstances for children’s grade progression in rural Pakistan: 1997-2004. Economics of Education review, 28(1): 152-160. Mutenyo, J. (2010). Achieving universal primary education and reducing hunger through school feeding programs. Brookings. Retrieved December 26, 2013 from The UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2012). The global demand for primary teachers – 2012 update: Projection to reach universal primary education by 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2013 from World Bank, (2009). Rethinking School Feeding: Social Safety Nets, Child Development, and the Education Sector, Washington DC.

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