Hunger, UPE Related Charges Causing Absenteeism and School Dropout

Hunger, UPE Related Charges Causing Absenteeism and School Dropout


Hunger and charges threaten the Universal Primary Education program.

By Ultimate Media
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First published: December 12, 2005


Hunger, poor nutrition and Universal Primary Education related fees are the key causes of absenteeism and school drop out, the second Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) report indicates.


The report says that hunger is sometimes attributed to children not having lunch at home, either because of long distance to and from school or because of food at home not being ready in time (due to the traditional work patterns especially in rural areas).

In addition, the report says that children do not have lunch from school because parents cannot afford to pay the high financial costs.

It says that as a result of the inability to move long distances home for lunch, or being able to return home for lunch because the school is near but finding no lunch at home, the achievement of UPE objectives is being highly threatened.

Apart from hunger and poor nutrition, the Participatory Poverty Assessment report says that the high financial costs is another cause of absenteeism and dropping out of school by UPE pupils. According to the report, research carried out in 12 districts among different parents from different backgrounds and livelihoods (e.g. rural, urban, pastoral, fishing etc) parents were unhappy with UPE-related charges because they prevent some of their children from attending primary school under UPE.

The report which was designed to deepen the understanding of the first PPA and to also gather people’s experiences with government policies says that the destitute, those children from relatively large but poor households, orphans, and those belonging to the marginal urban poor are severely affected.

It quotes a poor household head in Oluodri, Arua district who praised UPE but cried foul over the 20,000/= development fund and the 10,000/= per child per year on school uniform as being too expensive.

These and many others are turning away children from school yet UPE regulations prohibit the turning away from school, either urban or rural, of children who default on UPE-related charges and especially uniforms, scholastic material and lunch fees, the report says. It adds that children without scholastic materials and or uniform were turned away from school in very many cases.

To increase attendance, the report suggests the provision of free food to the vulnerable children only, especially the orphans and more sensitisation of parents about the value of children eating lunch on time, growing food at school for lunch, closing school by early afternoon and the formulation of a comprehensive national nutrition policy.

This, it bases on the fact that there is a known link between the nutritional status of children and their attendance and learning/performance as well as school feeding programs that can offset the immediate effects of hunger and malnutrition which, although good are expensive to maintain.

However, the report tends to dwell more on increased access to Universal Primary Education, that is, the net enrolment ratio which measures the enrolment as a proportion to the total number of children of (primary) school going age and not on the quality.

But it still shows that there has been a decline in the number of pupils enrolling to upper primary and calls for more attention to be given to the net enrolment rates.

The report attributes this to early marriages (especially girls) and pregnancies, children engaging in income generating activities, domestic chores, gender bias against girl-child education and peer pressure from earlier dropouts.

However, the report says that education was perceived to be of limited worth when after completion of schooling (Primary), there is no substantial difference between someone who has been to school and one who hasn’t. This added to the cost of education has led to many parents to opt to take their kids out of school.

“In Lwitamakoli, S4 leavers also do casual labour such as cultivating in sugarcane plantations. That is the only work they can get here. They do the same kind of work like those who never went to school. Their illiterate co-workers even wonder why they wasted time going to school because they are doing the same kind work,” one man said in a community meeting in Lwitamakoli.

This adds to recent concerns by the Uganda Education NGOs Forum that matters of relevance and quality of training should be seriously considered in finding solutions to why pupils are abandoning free education provided in UPE schools.

By Ultimate Media
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First published: December 12, 2005
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.