RTI reveals a spike in the school dropout rate in the Northern Province

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  • K. Prasanna

Ministry of Education statistics reveal that 2749 students out of 17,627 students who appeared for the 2022 scholarship examination in the Northern Province have passed scores above the cut-off marks. 7344 students scored 100 marks or more, and 13,846 students scored 70 marks or more. Meanwhile, according to the results of the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level Examination, out of 16,563 students who sat for the examination from the Northern Province, 12,002 students qualified for Advanced Level.

However, between 2020 and 2022, the Northern Provincial Education Department estimates that the school education of around 2206 students had been disrupted. According to the information provided by Mrs. K. Vasudevan, Information Officer at the Northern Province Education Department, as requested using the Right to Information Act, many students are dropping out of school due to economic difficulties and various family disputes.

Schools operating in the Northern Province

According to the Northern Province Education Department, there had been 1003 schools in the Northern Province in 2020, and in 2022 that number has been reduced to 996. Accordingly, in 2020, 950 Tamil language schools had been in operation, but by 2022, only 942 Tamil language schools were functioning. While eight Tamil schools had closed down, one new Sinhala medium school was opened in 2022.

As such, by 2022, 455 schools in the Jaffna district (440 Tamil medium schools and 15 Tamil and English medium schools), 104 schools in the Kilinochchi district (102 Tamil medium schools and 2 Tamil and English medium schools), 136 schools in the Mannar district (134 Tamil medium schools and 2 Sinhala medium schools), 174 schools in Vavuniya district (150 Tamil medium schools, 4 Tamil and English medium schools, and 20 Sinhala medium schools), and 127 schools in Mulativu district (116 Tamil medium schools, 2 Tamil and English medium schools, and 9 Tamil and Sinhala medium schools) have been functioning in the Northern Province.

Students in the Northern Province

By 2022, 238,517 students in the Northern Province had been pursuing primary education. Hence, the total number of students by district is as follows; 116,104 students in the Jaffna district, 31,173 students in the Kilinochchi district, 27,613 students in the Mannar district, 36,067 students (31,761 Tamil students and 4306 Sinhala students) in the Vavuniya district, and 27,560 students (25,139 Tamil students and 2421 Sinhala students) in Mullaitivu district.

Gender-wise, the total number of students in the Northern Province includes 119,099 boys and 119,418 girls. Among them, 3392 are Sinhala male students while 3335 are female students. It was further revealed that it is only the Sinhalese students who pursue studies in the Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts of the Northern Province.

Students who drop out of schools

Although many students in the Northern Province are attending schools, 2206 students have put a halt to their education over the last two years. In addition, 485 students, 1127 students, and 616 students in 13 education zones in the Northern Province have dropped out of schools in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.

In 2020, 268 boys and 217 girls were among the students who dropped out of education in the Northern Province. Most of the students who dropped out were from grades 8 to 13. Statistics reveal that 94 students from Madu Education Zone, 82 students from Mannar Education Zone, 52 students from Kilinochchi South Zone, and 51 students from Kilinochchi North Zone have left school.

A detailed perspective of school dropouts in 2020 is as follows; 59 out of 485 students were from grade 8 (38 boys and 21 girls), 79 students from grade 9 (45 boys and 34 girls), 135 students from grade 10  (76 boys and 59 girls), 140 students from grade 11 (85 boys and 55 girls), 37 students from grade 12  (12 boys and 25 girls) and, 34 students from grade 13  (11 boys and 23 girls).

It was also revealed that around 1127 students have dropped out of schools in 2011. A demographical representation is as follows; 181 students from Kilinochchi South Education Zone, 148 students from Waligamam Education Zone, and 135 students from Mannar Education Zone dropped out of schools. Of these, 98 students from Karaicchi Education Division, 92 students from Kandavalai Education Division, 83 students from Punagari Education Division, 60 students from Mannar Education Division, and 53 students from Karaithurapattu Education Division have dropped out.

In 2022, 616 students in the Northern Province have dropped out of school. As such, 123 students (77 males, 46 females) from Waligamam Education Zone, 135 students from Mannar Education Zone (88 males, 47 females), 100 students from Vavuniya North Education Zone (67 males, 33 females), and 56 students from Madu Education Zone (45 males, 11 girls), and 54 students from Mulativu Education Zone (38 males, 16 females) have dropped out this way.

Reasons for dropping out of school

After 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic was one reason for students to drop out of school in the Northern Province. But in addition, the Northern Province Education Department lists out several other reasons for children to drop out from school. These include a lack of interest in education, helping parents with work, family disputes, issues related to the home environment, family poverty, having to take care of siblings, a perception that they cannot pass the exam, looking for jobs, having to work at an early age to earn an income, mother or father moving abroad, the student trying to go abroad, mental stress, illness, and lack of parental supervision.

After the spread of the pandemic in 2020, there had been a massive disruption in school education in the country. Due to the complete closure of schools, students could not continue their education. Although classes were conducted online, students who did not have the facilities could not take advantage of them.

The economic crisis that came about following the pandemic severely affected the livelihoods of many families. As a result, many of them are unemployed, their family income has been affected, and they are unable to cover their expenses, which directly affects their children’s education.

Drug abuse is another major cause that drives students out of school. However, the Department of Education says that various measures have already been taken to prevent it.

As per a directive issued to all Zonal Education Directors on 06/01/2022 under the title ‘Action Plan’ school students have been made members of community development. Students are also being instructed on safety following morning prayers on Fridays and Mondays.

An annual awareness program on elimination and prevention of drugs is being conducted among school children on June 26 to coincide with the International Drug Prevention Week which falls from June 26 to July 01.

Awareness programs are also being held every year on October 10 in view of World Mental Health Day. Recognizing its strong impact this year, directives have been sent to all Zonal Education Directors to work on topics such as self-defence, self-actualization, and recommendations during a month-long awareness campaign from September 26 to October 26.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, awareness programs are held each year on October 10. Due to the strong impact this year, from September 26 to October 26, directives have been sent to all Zonal Education Directors to work on topics such as self-defence, self-actualization, and recommendations.

As per a letter issued by the Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (letter No. NCPA/MIU/SANP/2022/04 dated 22.09.2022), Zonal Education directors have been instructed to initiate a ‘School Student Ambassador National Program’ for Senior Prefects as well as in schools that includes classes from Grade 9 to 13.

The resource teams affiliated to the District Secretariat, Divisional Secretariat, and Health Department have been allowed to educate students from grade 9 onwards. The Northern Province Education Department further states that a selected group of students and teachers will be educated in this mannar.

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