15 percent of children out of school

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MASERU — Education Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla says 15 percent of children of primary school-going age are out of school.
According to government regulations children aged between six and 13 are supposed to be in school.
Khaketla was speaking at the launch of the Teaching Council last Friday.
The council will regulate the teaching profession, develop a code of conduct on educators and advise the minister on matters related to the profession.
Under the directorship of the principal secretary in the education ministry, the council will work closely with the Teaching Services Commission and the Teaching Service Department.
The minister said it was worrying that there are still many children out of school despite that the government has made huge investments to promote free primary education.
The government introduced the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme in 2000 to make basic education affordable and accessible to all Basotho children.
In March last year parliament passed the 2010 Education Act which makes it compulsory for parents to send their children to school.
Under that law parents who fail to send their children to school might risk imprisonment.
But Khaketla said the law was yet to be fully implemented 16 months after it was passed.
In an interview this week the Chief Education Officer Primary, Thuto Mokhehle, said the ministry would conduct a study to find out why some children were still out of school.
“We will do a qualitative in-depth study to see why 15 percent of children are still out of school,” Mokhehle said.
“We have learned that some are orphans and so poor they do not have clothes, let alone uniforms.
“We have also heard that some children are looking after their sick parents while others are made to look after livestock thereby missing school,” Mokhehle said.
She said the study will help the ministry to understand problems surrounding children who are out of school. “Information collected during the study will then be shared with relevant ministries to see how we can all work together to make it possible for children to go to school.”
Mokhehle added: “We will work with the ministries of labour, health and social welfare, works and public transport, the police, department of child and gender protection unit and others.”
“Labour should be able to clearly say it is unlawful for children to work and not go to school.
“The Ministry of Social Welfare should make sure that poor children are taken care of while the ministry of transport should ensure safe roads and bridges for use by children during the rainy season.”
Mokhehle said it is only when all stakeholders work together that the government’s target of having all children in school by 2015 could be achieved.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili told a 2010 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit that since the introduction of free primary education enrolment had improved from 60 percent in 1999 to 83.9 in 2006.
The report showed that of the seven MDGs only the achievement of universal primary education and promotion of gender equality and empowering women were the two that were on track.
“The Free Primary Education Policy ensures equal access to primary education for boys and girls, and among other objectives also aims to reduce gender disparities in primary education,” Mosisili said.
He said there is however a higher level of primary enrolment for girls than for boys.
“Statistics in Lesotho also show that girls have had a bigger advantage in attaining secondary and higher education as compared to boys,” he said.
According to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund Lesotho has a literacy rate of 82 percent, one of the highest in Africa.

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