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A recent drought, poor economic conditions, massive migration to cities like Addis Ababa, Hawassa and Nazareth, along with parents who place a low priority on education have contributed to over 493,000 students from Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) dropping out of school this fiscal year.
According to information that Capital obtained from the SNNPR Education Bureau 436,000 primary and 56,943 high school students dropped out or did not come to school at all.Benchi Magi and South Omo zones had some of the highest dropout rates as 4.6 million students between first and eighth grade or 9.7 percent of the youth population did not attend school when it began in the middle of September. From this figure 625,754 high school students or 9.2 percent of the student population left their schools.
Sixty percent of the students who dropped out of primary school were girls. Among high school age students 60 percent of the dropouts were males.
There is a school feeding program which provides breakfast and lunch to students. This is funded by the World Food Program, the federal government and the SNNPR Educational Bureau. The budget for this program is 78 million birr. This has helped slightly decrease the dropout rate to 13 percent in 2016/17.
Some say that regions should offer free education during the evening hours and more economic assistance for parents to reduce the dropout rate.
One expert who requested anonymity said:
“Many of these students have parents who are farmers or have tough economic situations so their children are expected to help work during the day and it is hard for them to attend school. If there were classes at night it could help alleviate the situation or if parents were able to earn more money from farming and side jobs they wouldn’t feel the need to use their children as a means of economic assistance and would instead send them to school which would bring them more long term benefits.”
Meseret Bezu, SNNPR Education Bureau Development Plan Director disagrees with this, she says the night shift is not a major solution to reducing school dropout rates.
“We are working on school feeding to assist parents in providing food for their children. We are opening schools near their home which are equipped with libraries and laboratories so as a government we need encourage students to attend school every day to give them a better education. Night school is not our top priority agenda,” she said.