Primary School Years
The government’s education policy promotes compulsory, free schooling for children aged from five to nine years. However, only about four out of every five primary school-aged children are in school. In addition, dropout and repetition rates are high, particularly in Grade 1, with one in three children repeating Grade 1 and 15 percent dropping out.
Many poor families are unable to meet the costs of educating their children. There are many reasons why families may not send their children to school. Girls and dalits are more likely than other groups to be out of school in Nepal.
For girls from some families, education is viewed as a ‘poor investment’ since daughters leave their family’s home at marriage and the benefit of their ‘learning’ is given to someone else. Early marriage can also prevent girls from completing their education. If a choice has to be made between sending a boy or a girl to school, the boy will usually be given precedence. Some families cannot afford the opportunity costs of lost income or labour to educate their children, and girls are more likely than boys to have to look after the home while other family members go out to work. For Dalits, poverty and caste discrimination can also make it difficult to attend school.
Other reasons for low attendance are that schools may be too far away from some children’s homes, and there may be a lack of sufficient places for all children living in the surrounding area. For children at school, poor-quality facilities and unsuitable teaching methods often result in an environment that is neither child-friendly nor conducive to learning. It is common for schools to be poorly equipped with no seating, no desks, no blackboard, a lack of adequate lighting, and a roof that leaks when it rains. Many schools lack toilets and a clean water supply and classroom materials are insufficient and of poor quality. Corporal punishment and verbal abuse are commonplace, with teachers often targeting those who are least likely to resist, such as younger students, girls, slow-learning students, the ‘lower’ castes, and the disabled.
For children who have never been to primary school or have dropped out, the government has an alternative education programme. The Out-of-School Programme aims to provide children with basic literacy and numeric skills, and can also help them enter the formal schooling system. However, availability of the Out-of- School Programme can vary and many out-of-school children do not receive this second chance.