An estimated 200,000 school-going children drop-out of school annually in the country, Commissioner of Probation and Childcare Services, Sarath Abeygunawardena said
Abeygunawardena said that most drop-outs quit school at the ages between 10 years and 14 years. He said however that dropping out of school sometimes starts as early as the age of five. Due to the lack of education some parents believe that a school education up to grade five is more than adequate for their children, he said.
He added that the issue was most common in single parent homes where families are run solely by women, families in which mothers are employed in the Middle East or due to poverty. “There are a number of social and economic issues that lead to this problem,” Abeygunawardena said. “If we can control the number of school drop-outs we can control child labor, child trafficking and other types of abuse that children are subject to,” he said.
The Probation and Childcare Services Department along with the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs will organize an awareness program for children who drop out of school today in the Palindha Divisional Secretariat in Kalutara. Abeygunawardena said that the department began an awareness and development program in 2009 to address the problem. “Since then the number of drop-outs in the area have declined from an estimated 500 to about 200,” he said.
Similar programs have been held in other areas in the Kalutara, Kurunegala and Moneragala district, he said. “We hope to implement such programs in other areas of the country to reduce the number of drop-outs island wide,” he said.
He said a multi-disciplinary approach was necessary to address the issue by including parents, teachers, principals, childcare authorities, the police and other stakeholders.