"Over 19 children in every one hundred children aged 15-17 years stop schooling before attaining any form of academic award. The proportion of female school dropouts exceeds that of boys.
As Uganda celebrates women's day and month, economists have asked government to create development initiatives that target girls that have dropped out of school because they are part of the future of the nation.
The economists from the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) based at Makerere University said While employment initiatives (such as the Youth Livelihood Program) are commendable, most of them target special interest groups of youth aged 18-35 years, hence excluding the young adolescents (aged 15 -17 years) who are out of school and are of legal age to work – 14 years.
"Over 19 children in every one hundred children aged 15-17 years stop schooling before attaining any form of academic award. The proportion of female school dropouts exceeds that of boys. Moreover, school dropouts mainly come from less educated households—most parents/guardians of these children have no or little education, and perhaps attach little value to education," said the economists. The economists are Mildred Barungi, Francis Mwesigye and Musa Mayanja Lwanga. They written a paper entitled: '"Young female school dropouts are excluded from economic growth"
The economists explain that usually, the main reason why children drop out of school pre-maturely is lack of school fees, reported by about 47 percent of children aged 15-17years.
They emphasized that many parents/guardians cannot afford to send their children to school despite there being Government's Universal Primary Education [UPE], Universal Secondary Education [USE] and Universal Post Ordinary Level Training [UPOLET] programmes, that are meant to reduce the cost of schooling.
They note that partly due to lack of employable skills, most out-of-school children, especially in rural areas are engaged in agriculture. The percentage of girls engaged in agriculture (79 percent) exceeds that of boys by two percentage points.
They recommend that since agriculture is the biggest employer of the out-of-school children and youth, there is need to design and implement programmes along various agricultural value chains so as to support the children and youth to engage in the sector in an economically meaningful way.
Citing statistics they note that quite a few out-of-school children (24 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls) are paid employees. They earn meager wages/salaries—on average, the monthly pay is sh 41,000s for males and shs 32,000 for females.
Supporting their case further they noted, most out-of-school children, especially girls are engaged in agricultural production, which requires a certain package of inputs for output maximization. For example, children, especially girls may lack inputs of production such as land, improved seed, fertilizer, irrigation facilities and labour input, among others.
"Like adult farmers, young farmers too require loans to be able to engage in profitable agriculture. However rural out-of-school children, especially girls, face the greatest exclusion from sources of financial services compared to older age groups. The limited access to financial services means that these children are most likely to lack sufficient capital to establish viable income generating business entities," argued the economist.
They said given the above situation, Government's desire to attain inclusive growth could remain an illusion unless action is taken. They came up with the following suggestions that can be done in the short and medium term;
Massive skilling of school dropouts:
Dropping of school implies that these young persons have little or no education and no marketable skills. Little or no education limits their productivity and the acquisition of necessary skills to access gainful employment. Equipping young persons who drop out school with skill can enable them survive in the job market.
Vocational skills in farming, carpentry, metal works and construction could provide an alternative to the mainstream formal education. The existing vocational schools ought to be well staffed equipped with modern equipment. Where possible, young persons should be facilitated to rejoin formal education to improve their level of education.
Increasing children's access to financial services: Young female school dropouts are generally financially excluded; this leaves them unable to invest, save and makes them vulnerable to shocks. While this may be due to lack of financial services in places where these children reside, it could also be due to financial illiteracy and lack of collateral.
"Therefore, designing financial inclusion programmes that target young female school dropouts would go a long way in improving access to finance and triggering a more gender inclusive growth," the economists said.