Parents unable to send all their children to school because of the economic crisis
According to the United Nations, more than six million people are currently struggling to feed themselves and families are forced to sacrifice their children’s education to save money. School dropout is highest on plantation estates. By April, more than a million children could be at home, making it a bigger problem than the country’s financial situation.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Due to the economic crisis, Sri Lankan parents are unable to send all their children to school every day.
According to the United Nations, more than six million Sri Lankans are currently struggling to feed themselves and their families are sacrificing education to keep costs down.
Although Sri Lanka offers free education from first grade to university, meals are not provided in all schools, while the cost of school textbooks and bussing children has forced parents to choose which child to send to school.
“Extreme poverty is the main reason for many children dropping out of school,” said Sandeepa Mirihella, a resident of Monaragala, Uva province, speaking AsiaNews. “The current economic crisis has resulted in parents losing their livelihoods.”
As a result, “Several male students have dropped out of school to seek odd jobs to support their families, whereas girls have stayed at home to earn a living by engaging in cottage industries.”
“Sri Lanka has performed well in basic education indicators,” an economic analyst explained. This includes “a high literacy rate and near-universal participation in primary and secondary schooling, yet there are striking disparities”.
This is especially true for “the education performance of the estate sector comprising plantation communities. The highest percentage of dropouts are in primary and secondary levels, 4 per cent primary, 20 per cent secondary and 26 per cent undergraduates.”
“Many estate sector schools are Type 3 schools (with only primary grades),” some experts note. This “discourages children from advancing into lower secondary grades as they need to enrol in schools situated far away from the estates.”
“In Nuwara Eliya District, one of the largest estate sectors in the country, 50.2 per cent of schools are Type 3 schools which influences many children to drop out of school after completing their primary education.”
“In Nuwara Eliya district, one of the largest, 50.2 per cent of schools are type 3, and the absence of other schools influences many children to drop out of school after completing primary education."
For economic analyst Dhanushka Sirimanne, “more than 35 per cent of families cannot even make a meal a day and have difficulty sending their children to school. As a result, about 1.4 million children out of 4.1 million could see their right to education completely denied.”
Many parents “will not be able to bear the burden with their hard-earned meagre income,” Sirimanne said. “To find Rs.15,000 (US$ 41) or more to send one child to school is impossible for them”.
Unfortunately, “some school principals and teachers (some who are parents too) insist that parents should send their children to school with everything included in the list of books.”
“Teacher trade union leaders who were busy demanding salary increases (some time ago) staging protest rallies and demonstrations are silent on this issue,” Sirimanne noted.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s opposition parties have not yet raised the issue that allocations for school education are a mere 166.3 billion rupees (US$ 452 million) for 2023.
“Everyone must understand that with all the essentials, including food, being expensive,” activist Udaya Ganegoda laments, the “number of dropouts from schools [. . .] could be 30 to 35 per cent by April 2023.” This would be about “1.2 million out of 4.1 million children in school, an issue worse than the economic crisis.”