Recently, we have been interacting with The Steve Sinnott Foundation out of Watford, UK. A recent post on their site revealed that according to UNESCO, Uganda has the highest school dropout rates in all of Eastern Africa. In 2006, a follow-up study showed that out of every 100 children that began Primary 1 in 1999, only 25% of those children reached Primary 7. The Ugandan Ministry of Education says dropout rates are higher at the primary level due to circumstances almost always beyond the control of the child. Some examples that we have found on the ground in Uganda are:
- household responsibilities (this post)
- poverty / hidden school costs
- orphanhood / child headed households
- lack of quality in schools
The existing problem of these high dropout rates in Uganda must be addressed in any education initiative that is undertaken in the country. For Xchange, this means a fundamental assessment on the causes for dropouts and the development of real, sustainable solutions to address these issues. We have decided to “think out loud” on these issues here so that others can give their thoughts and input. Each of the four issues above will be it’s own post in this four-part series.
One of the greatest ways to fight school dropouts is the sensitization of the parents. Often times in Uganda, the parents are not encouraging their children to attend school regularly due to responsibilities at home. When the number of family members to be fed reaches double digits, a mother needs all the garden help she can get. In the most primitive areas of Uganda, this is basic survival instincts – food and water come before education. It is better to live uneducated than to not live. This is easily seen by examining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Any human will put their physiological needs far before their self-esteem and self-actualization pursuits. The difficulty in teaching rural village parents the need for education comes because one is fighting against embedded, psychological tendencies.
Generally speaking, parents across Uganda know and realize the importance of schooling for their children. The problem is not convincing parents that education is important – the challenge is making it easier for education to move up on their list of priorities and more attainable for low-income families. Parents want to send their children to school and we often are encouraged to see mothers and fathers working hard to earn money for school fees. But as the setting gets more rural, the per capita of families decreases and the need for subsistence farming increases. When a family depends on its garden for life, circumstances often force parents to make the difficult decision of keeping their children home as a work force. Also, many rural communities do not have short access to clean water. Thus, children are a viable human resource for fetching water from a borehole or pond. Depending on the area, this can take hours.
One of the ways Xchange is looking into solving these problems in Bufula is through agricultural projects and training. By using purchased land, we want to train the community on Farming God’s Way, a farming technique used to increase yields and decrease human effort. By showing the community new ways of reducing the need for children around the home, we hope they will be more inclined to encourage their children to stay in school. By also drilling a well on the school property, families can reduce the need to travel for water. Children can also bring a jerry can with them to school and return home with it full that evening, eliminating the need to fetch water outside of classroom hours.
What are some other ways we can encourage parents and reduce the need for children around the home?