Voted the best community school principal in Lalitpur last year, Thakur Upadhaya of Shree Vishwomitra Ganesh Madhyamik School at Lubhu, travels around his school’s catchment area to recruit school-going children. This year, the net enrolment rate for the primary level in that area reached 100 percent. The school is also proud of a low dropout rate, at around 0.25 percent.
“What is remarkable, though, is that almost all dropouts are girls and they usually quit school after the eighth grade,” he says. Vishwomitra is not the only school facing this phenomenon. Girls’ enrolment at secondary level falls throughout the nation.
According to the Millennium Development Goals progress report 2013, while girl’s enrolment constitutes 50.9 percent at the lower-secondary (grade 6-8) level, it falls to 49.7 percent at the secondary level (grade 9-10). When Nepal is trying to eliminate the gender disparity in both of these levels by 2015, this fall, if unchecked, could lead Nepal to meet its target.
One of the reasons, Upadhaya says, is the mentality that an eighth grade certificate is enough to show the world that a girl is literate and that’s all she needs. Now it’s time for her to get married or start helping with work at home. Although going to a community schools costs virtually nothing, a poor family calculates that it has more to gain by keeping its girl at home or by sending her to work. The other main reason, Upadhaya, says is puberty and the physical changes a girl goes through during this period, which in lack of proper facilities such as a female toilet deters a girl from continuing her education.
Roj Nath Pandey, assistant spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, agrees with Upadhaya, but says no national-level study has yet been conducted to properly study this phenomenon and to implement programmes to improve the rate of girls’ enrolment at the secondary level.
“We do have programmes focused on increasing the enrolment of girls in schools in general, such as distributing two litres of oil to a girl’s family and providing scholarships for the girls of the poor, but they are not targeted at girls at secondary-level only,” says Pandey.
Although what causes a girl to discontinue school is still guesswork, the government, is slowly waking up to the high drop-out rates in general. After a 2012 report published by the Department of Education suggested that a lack of separate toilet facilities for girls in 35 percent of 29,100 government schools affects a girl’s continuation of her education, the Ministry of Education has decided to build 2,000 new toilets for girls this fiscal year.
Nepal is struggling with a low net enrolment rate at the secondary level in general. According to a flash report (2012-2013) published by the Department of Education,only 54.3 percent of children who should be enrolled at the secondary level were enrolled at that level, while that percentage was higher for lower secondary level at 72.2 percent. When this enrolment rate itself is dismal, it is a pity to see girls discontinue school at the secondary level.
source:the kathmandu post,15 Sept 2013