The children

Childhood in the Dominican Republic

The Early Years

Boys and Girls of School-Going Age



Boys and Girls of School-Going Age

© UNICEF/DR/2004/González

Among the priority problems affecting boys, girls and adolescents between 6 and 14 years of age are those related to the rights of the child to quality education, protection against violence, child labour, abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.

Through a National Consultation on the Rights of the Child carried out in 2002, 227 children between the ages of 6 and 12 spoke of the issues of greatest concern to them. Among these the most mentioned were family violence, lack of communication, the load of domestic chores, violence and insecurity in the barrios where they live, household poverty (which according to ECLAC estimates represents approximately 55.8% of this population) and lack of responsibility of teachers who do not fulfil their working hours.

According to Law 136-03 all boys, girls, and adolescents have the right to integral quality education to allow them to develop their potential and capabilities. The Ministry of Education (SEE) is the institution responsible for guaranteeing access to initial education from five years of age compulsory and free access to basic education; and access to secondary education, including vocational training, for all adolescents.

According to information from the SSE, access to educational services has increased during the past five years, in particular at the basic and higher levels. The increase in educational coverage is related to the increase in public resources oriented towards the sector, as well as the implementation of programmes oriented to strengthening the initial education system improving the coverage and quality of basic education and the introduction of the school breakfast.

There is however inequality in access to education between the urban and rural areas. The rural areas are at a disadvantage due to the distances at which schools are located in some areas.

In addition, the internal efficiency of the system, measured by the repetition, dropout and over-age rates is still low. Therefore, there still are obstacles that limit the provision of public quality education services for the children and adolescents of the country.

According to data from the SSE for the period 2004-2005, despite the fact that 92.7% of all children and adolescents are enrolled in Basic Education (first to eighth grade), there is a problem of repetition,  especially after the third grade (14.6%) since there is automatic promotion from the first and second grades. There is also a problem dropouts with 6.4% of children and adolescents dropping out of school early 6.4 in many cases to devote themselves to paid work.

Repetition and dropout affect more children in the rural zones and marginal urban areas. The high rate of repetition generates the problem of over-aged children in the education system, especially in the rural sector, where 44% of the children of the first basic cycle (Grades 1 to 5) are three or more years older than the appropriate age, whereas for the second basic cycle (Grades 6 to 8) 60% of the students are not of the appropriate age. The problem of over-aged children is a consequence of late enrolment and temporary dropouts. (Source: Statistics Department of the Secretariat of State of Education (SSE), 2005).


© UNICEF/DR/2006/Cappelletti

Health and Nutrition
The Secretariat of State of Public Health and Social Assistance (SESPAS by its initials in Spanish) has for years implemented a school health programme with the objective of providing health services to children attending school. The programme has about 170 physicians and nurses appointed to an equal number of schools in the National District, San Cristobal, San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana and San Juan de la Maguana.

Data from this programme show that the main reasons for consultations are respiratory, gastrointestinal (diarrhoea) illnesses, parasites and anaemia.

Notwithstanding the existence of this school health programme, there is a need to expand the epidemiological profile of this population group and not only those attending school.

Situations of Risk
In the Dominican Republic the rates of child labour, abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children between the ages of 6 and 12, imply situations of severe violation of their rights. The National Child Labour Survey (ENTI by its initials in Spanish) carried out by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2000, indicates that close to 66% of the children who work (436,000) are between the ages of 5 and 14; and that 42% of this population entered the labour market before the age of 10. The early age at which children start working, which competes with school attendance, and its degree of danger, expose many children to situations that endanger their health, education and personal security.

(Source: Child Labour National Survey/Santo Domingo, DO:ILO/IPEC; Secretariat of State of Labour, 2000).

On the other hand, a study carried out in 2002, from a sample of 118 minors exploited sexually and commercially in the National District and the city of Puerto Plata, shows that 14.4% of them could not read or write, and that 13.6% had no schooling. Results also showed that their first sexual relations occurred at a very early age, often resulting from sexual abuse.
(Source: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors in the Dominican Republic/Santo Domingo, DO:ILO/IPEC; PROFAMILIA, 2002).






Indicators of Education Effectiveness

There are 4 basic indicators that measure the internal effectiveness of the Educational System:

Repetition -
when a grade is repeated once or more in successive years.

Over-aged -
when children are older than corresponds to the grade in which they are in

Academic performance -
possibilities to meet the curricula and goals set for a specific grade and school period

Drop out -
school abandonment due to multiple causes, often related to prior indicators of performance, over-aged, etc. In our country, this is associated to untimely entry of minors in the labour market.


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