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Sounding the alarm on school dropout

Mar 13,2018 - Last updated at Mar 13,2018

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Jordan has identified school enrollment and school dropouts as a main concern for children in Jordan, and has launched a pilot project for this purpose in the form of "Hajati Baseline Report".

The project aims to combat this growing challenge affecting all children living in Jordan, irrespective of their nationality. Under international human rights norms, the right to basic education is a priority in all countries regardless of their economic condition, and must be provided to all children cost-free, regardless of their citizenship.

In essence, UNICEF's "Hajati Baseline Report" is a cash transfer project, albeit a limited one, financed by the UNICEF Child Cash Grant. Social Protection Programme Specialist (Cash Transfers) at UNICEF Jordan Gabriele Erba explained during the launch ceremony that the project provided aid to 53,333 children of all nationalities, the majority of whom were Syrians, followed by Jordanians who accounted for 11 per cent of the beneficiaries.

The amount given to children who benefitted from the programme is only JD20 per month per student to cover at least some of the expenses of students' transportation, school uniforms and class stationery.

There were no shocking revelations that emerged from the implementation of the project as it confirmed the obvious, namely, that children between the ages of 6 to 11 had the highest school attendance rate, which started dropping as students grew older.

The culprit for lower school attendance was identified as poverty for boys, who must have been forced to leave school to find employment, often the dangerous kind. For girls, it was the early marriage phenomenon that drove so many girl students out of schools, usually under parental pressures due to poverty.

One would have thought that these major explanations could have been addressed by legislation, or rather the enforcement of existing legislation on child labour and child marriage. Jordan already has laws against child labour and also against child marriage all they need is enforcement.

It is the non-enforcement of laws that contributes to the high rate of school dropouts, and this is where UNICEF, in cooperation with Jordanian authorities, must endeavour more effectively to combat child labour and child marriage.

UNICEF in Jordan has sounded, with appreciation, the alarm about this problem, and now it is the government's turn to do something about it. Given the big number of Syrian refugees living in Jordan, it is also the responsibility of the international community to lend meaningful support to Jordan and UNICEF in their joint endeavour to address this growing problem.

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