Geita. The presence of income-generating activities such as mining and fishing in the Geita region is one of the top reasons for absenteeism in schools, where dozens of children are tempted to quit and become self-employed, The Citizen reports.
A week-long study in the rural suburbs of the region’s Nyan’gwale and Chato districts found that poverty in many households has made it easier for parents and guardians to take in their children in search of money to support themselves. and the importance of education for their teenagers.
In one of the primary schools in Chato District (name secret), the headteacher explains that more than 50 students drop out of poverty every year, where teenagers engage in fishing and farming activities.
“For many high school students, mining is their place of comfort, but in our case (primary education) we lose up to 60 students who drop out every year. – made hooks and started farming’, the teacher explains.
Nzali Ligwa Nzali is a 13-year-old boy whose father left home while he (Nzali) was 11 years old (in 2020), leaving behind his three children and their mother, who works on farms as the family’s breadwinner.
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Despite having good study skills, according to his teachers, when he reached standard five, Nzali started thinking about leaving school while stating the reason as his eye problems as well as lack of necessary learning materials and school uniforms due to poverty.
“The situation got worse and I decided to stop and go fishing with a hook in the lake where I used to go at dawn and return home in the afternoon,” he explains.
This work was received with joy by his mother who saw that Nzali had already started contributing to the family income by finding food and earning a small income through fish trade.
“I came back every day in the afternoon with as many as 20 fish, one of which we ate and the other sold. My mother was always happy because I was helping her feed the family and she didn’t think it was necessary for me to continue with school,” he explains.
Worse, after Nzali retired, her younger sister followed suit when she stayed at home to help her mother with household chores and farm work, as at her age (seven years old) she was unable to go fishing like her brother, Nzali did.
According to his head teacher, Nzali was the student the school was proud of for his impressive achievements since he went to Standard One, so as teachers they were very upset when Nzali’s attendance started to decline.
“In fact, many parents still do not see education as the best way to fight poverty in their household. When we started making a sequel to Nzali, we realized that his mother did not understand or see the need for her son to go to school, because by then he had contributed to the economy of the family,” says the teacher. . He continues to say that the understanding of the importance of education in the families of fishermen and farmers in the villages is minimal or nonexistent, and therefore calls for more efforts by the government and other development stakeholders.
“At the end of the day we were able to get Nzali back to school and this year we expect him to participate in the Primary Schools Leaving Examination (PSLE) and we believe in his abilities as he has been one of the best students with consistency in performance,” he said.
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On the other hand, Elisha Masanja, 19, stopped in 2020 and ran to the mine where he started working as a ‘hand boy’ to try his luck but to this day has never found what he expected.
“I have consulted with my parents to come here because there are many who have come here and have done well, so they convinced me to drop out of school and come to the mine, although I have not yet succeeded as we have expected,” he says.
“This job is hard, sometimes I get bullied by my superiors, but I still encourage myself… I can’t go back to school because my mind is just looking for money at the moment,” he emphasizes.
One of the leaders in the mine (name withheld) explains that there are many teenagers entering the mine and the leadership has tried to prevent this, but the culture of the parents has made the situation more difficult.
“We see these young people coming in disguise, but there are times when we just don’t let them experience the situation the way they expect… we’d like them to go back to school if they don’t study and we’ll start chasing them away.” , ” he says.
For her part, Nzali’s mother explains that the hardships in life have not allowed her to encourage her son to study because in the end there were things that she would have to buy for him at a time when the condition did not allow it.
“In my heart I want my children to be educated, but their father ran away from them two years ago and he never contributed anything, so I thought it was best for Nzali to help me get food for the family” , she says. explains, noting that later on, however, she understood and started encouraging her children to go to school.
Situation and solution
Geita is one of the leading regions for truancy in the country, ranking second for absenteeism among elementary and middle school students, according to the region’s 2018 report.
The statistics of the region (then) showed that student turnout for the year 2017 averaged 90 percent, while the dropout rate was 10 percent.
For those who completed primary education in 2017, that’s 81 percent with a 19 percent drop, and for secondary schools, it’s 60 percent with a 40 percent drop.
This reality led several organizations defending children’s and women’s rights to focus on their projects to rescue children who quit to take up self-employment fishing and farming activities in the region. Plan International has implemented a three-year project to address the worst forms of child labor and other forms of violence against children in the Geita region (March 2020-February 2023).
As such, the organization launched intervention in the eradication of the worst forms of child labor and violence against women and children in the region and in this way Nzali and others in the mining and agricultural sectors were rescued and encouraged to return to school.
After efforts to find the Geita region’s leadership proved fruitless, The Citizen managed to find one of the leaders in charge of education, who asked to be remembered because he was not a spokesperson. many children gave up and became self-employed in the mines, restaurants, agriculture and fishing.
“While I don’t have full statistics at this time, the situation is not encouraging and what we are doing now is urging parents to take responsibility and provide more education through district education officials,” he said.