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Feb 22, 2018

Why Are So Many in Danger of Leaving School?

The Ministry of Education and UNICEF collaborated for the Out of School Children Initiative. The aim is to improve the analysis of factors affecting the exclusion of children from education, leading to effective policies and programmatic changes. The study looked at children of different age groups who are not in school and students who are at risk of dropping out of school. It also outlines barriers to including policies, lack of resources and financial access. The Ministry of Education and its partners met today to present the findings of the study done over the past two years. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

A new study called the “Out-of-School Study” shows that more than seven thousand children are not in school across the pre-primary, primary and secondary levels in Belize. And most of those children from underprivileged homes in rural areas.

 

Neulin Villanueva

Dr. Neulin Villanueva, Deputy Chief Education Officer, MOE

“The number of four-year-olds who are not in school, we have almost one thousand five hundred students. In the Primary level, we have over two thousand students that we have to look at and it goes up at the lower level secondary level we have almost four thousand students. What we are finding is that students from rural areas are at a disadvantage and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Looking at these numbers, how much of a concern is it to the Ministry that so many of our children are out of school?”

 

Dr. Neulin Villanueva

“Well, I think even one child out of school is an issue because we know that we have to grow our country and not only that but for their own personal development.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What does it mean for the Ministry to have this kind of data?”

 

Dr. Neulin Villanueva

“It is excellent because we need to be making data based decisions. We have to be on the ground knowing what exactly we are doing. Our resources are always limited, so when we have data to back up what we are doing that makes it a lot better.”

 

The study is critical to the work of the Ministry of Education to find out what is keeping our children out of school and what can be done about it. It is a big task for the Ministry and its partners, but recommendations show that funding, training and policy changes may help to address these findings.

 

Dr. Neulin Villanueva

“Some of the recommendations included perhaps increasing the compulsory school age and we can look at four year olds on the lower end and we could look at going up to age sixteen – right now it is age fourteen. So, that is one of the major recommendations. There were many recommendations as well in terms of policies, for example disciplinary policies that may lead students to stay out of school and of course there is also the resourcing in terms of staffing, and having more special needs teachers, having more teachers at the early childhood level or better trained teachers.”

 

The “Out-of-School Children Initiative” is a global study launched by UNICEF and UNESCO in 2010. Belize’s “out of school study” was carried out between 2016 and 2017. Now, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry to address the barriers to education that are highlighted in the study.

 

Denise Robateau

Denise Robateau, Early Childhood Development & Education Officer

“A part of our role is advocacy; advocacy for access to quality education and access for inclusive education. With the evidence and the data such as this out-of-school study, UNICEF is able to support the national plans and programs where the needs arise, where the needs are targeted.  We have supported the Government of Belize in strengthening quality schools and as I mentioned before, that looks at access to education and access to inclusive education. The study has helped to highlight some of the gaps. So, what we strive to do and this afternoon we will look at some of the key priorities and recommendations to chart a way forward. We are interested, for example, in the development of a new education sector strategy and definitely we believe that some of the recommendations coming out of this study may help to chart that way forward.”

 

The study also shows that over fifteen thousand students are at risk of dropping out of primary school, while over twelve thousand three hundred are at risk of dropping out of lower secondary school. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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1 Response for “Why Are So Many in Danger of Leaving School?”

  1. kmheusner says:

    Thank you Andrea Polanco for a comprehensive story that actually gives the numbers of children affected. I could not believe Ch 7s story did not even give the data. Ch 5′s coverage far superior on this one, and I look forward to follow up pieces that focus on the children at risk of dropping out, and schools with highest numbers of those not completing their studies.

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