EDITORIAL COMMENT: Time to look beyond mere literacy

school-childrenTHE high school dropout rate as announced by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education through its recently released Education Management System report is disturbing.

Only 157 out of every 1 000 pupils progress from Form 1 to complete A-level.

Presumably of those who do complete A-level, only a fraction goes on to attain tertiary qualifications.

We have to move beyond basic literacy to a nation of educated people.

The only way we can do that is to keep our children in school for the prescribed maximum basic education.

The report, which is based on 2013 figures, shows that more than 13 000 primary and secondary pupils dropped out of school in the year under review.

About 43 percent of primary school pupils fell through a black hole. That is almost half of the total enrolment!

The rate almost doubled from 23 percent the previous year.

Education is a key human right and Government needs to urgently introduce and implement policies that ensure that every child enjoys this right.

Basic education up to O Level should be compulsory for every child in this country.

To achieve that, the relevant departments must get their act together.

Why are 2013 statistics only being released when we are almost at the end of the first quarter of 2015?

How can effective policies be structured if decision makers are using stale data?

Why can’t the ministry have an updated monitoring system which makes current data available monthly or even termly?

That is the only way they can react in time to save the affected children as well as become proactive in addressing the situation before the children are lost.

We are not surprised that workers in the same system often get away with failing such a simple task as correctly filling out the required information for BEAM payments for deserving pupils.

Instead money is returned to the donors because “there are no takers”!

We also feel the ministry should be alive to the fact that traditional schools are simply overwhelmed as the number of school-going children increases each year.

As a result, many have no option but to turn to private schools being founded regularly.

We believe that a good number of these private schools are neither registered nor supervised by the ministry.

Without regulatory oversight, what standards are these illegal schools using?

It is possible that some of the supposed drop-outs filter through the registered schools net to unregistered ones, thereby perpetuating the fraudulent practice.

That might also be happening to pupils choked out of the formal system by tight bottlenecks at the entry level to A level and tertiary institutions.

This latter point makes a strong case for the current curriculum review project and why the Psychomotor department is such an important one.

Poverty seems to be another major cause for children failing to access education. This almost seamlessly leads to early marriages, another worrisome phenomenon which leads to the violation of child rights.

This is where BEAM was expected to bring much needed relief, but it obviously has loopholes.

For example, undeserving children often benefit at the expense of the most vulnerable.

There is need to constantly review the selection criteria to keep the programme relevant.