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High rural drop outs – a barrier to universal education

October 9, 2008

UNICEF estimates that in today’s world, one in five adults are illiterate and 72 million children are not going to school.

Rural areas account for 82% of all the out-of-school children and based on household surveys in 80 developing countries conducted by UNICEF, 30 percent of rural children of primary school age do not attend school, compared to 18 per cent in urban areas.

No country is immune to this problem.

The story is the same for children living in remote rural areas of Angola, Zambia, Bangladesh, Brazil and even United States. In fact, according to three Cornell researchers only about 26 percent of low-income kids in rural areas of United States were served by state-regulated early education programs compared with almost 44 percent of poor urban/suburban kids.

Educating rural children presents a significant challenge in more than one ways. Most of the world’s poor and hungry live in rural areas.  For these children attending school competes with a whole host of demands on their time and energy like collecting water, herding animals and looking after their younger brothers and sisters. There are infrastructure problems too and most of the rural areas lack proper schools.

Then there is the problem of urban bias in teaching methods. Much of what is taught in rural schools is prepared for urban schools by urban specialists and is not in the local language. Also a large number of teachers refuse to teach in rural areas and those who do are usually under qualified. In addition, parents may not send children to school in some areas due to lack of safety and some children may quit school because they don’t find it interesting.

UNICEF believes that poverty reduction begins with children and that investing in children’s education offers the best guarantee for achieving equitable and sustainable human development. Hence, educating rural kids is of utmost importance. But to achieve this rural kids need more schools, with improved teaching methods, techniques and materials that focus on their real needs. It is also important to offer incentives that encourage children to attend school and their parents to send them to school – a midday meal or midmorning snack for example.

Most of the children who are illiterate are also hungry and with full stomachs children can concentrate and learn better. The curriculum should also be relevant to their lives. They might not care about an amusement park or a supermarket but they may need to learn how to harvest a crop or how to handle pesticides.

The school calendar should take their working lives into account by cutting down classes during harvesting season and having evening classes if the children are working during the day. It is also important to use the local language for teaching. Intellectual development of children is very much linked to the language they speak and if they are taught in a tongue which they don’t understand, their development is constrained.  But often countries have many languages and find it is easier to use the official one to develop curriculum. Also, government funds should be allocated and used efficiently to improve the conditions of the destitute rural schools.

Education is the foundation of success for any society and educating rural kids is the only way to uplift those areas. Thus, a strong collaboration is needed between various governments, non governmental agencies and other international organizations to achieve the goal of universal education by 2015.

-Shamala Pulugurtha

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In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never make it to 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

Donate at Change.org

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