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Student dropout rate in Arakan mounts

The rate of dropouts among primary school students in Arakan State has increased this school year as many poor....

The rate of dropouts among primary school students in Arakan State has increased this school year as many poor families are unable to afford to send their children back to school due to the economic crisis in the state.

Many children in suburban areas of Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, have dropped out of school this monsoon after their parents were unable to pay the school fees and other education costs.
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Daw Soe Mya, a mother of a student from Sat Rokya Ward, said, "I want to send my child to the government school. But I am unable to bear the expenses. We are struggling hard for our daily survival right now, so we cannot consider our children's education."

According to local reports, over 300 children from the wards of East Sat Rokya, West Sat Rokya, Mindra Chit, and Aung Chant Tha on the outskirts of Sittwe have dropped out of government schools after their families could not pay school fees.

"The government announced it would not collect extra money from students through teachers, but the students still have to pay many fees in school, including for school furniture, uniforms, tuition, and stationary. So we are unable to afford these fees for our children," Daw Saw said.

Despite many children dropping out of school, the government has no plan to help the students return and re-enroll.

An educated youth in the area said that the authorities know of the situation in the area very well, but have no interest in helping the poor children go back to school.

Many children in East Sat Rokya, West Sat Rokya, Mindra Chit, and Aung Chant Tha Wards have joined the monastery education centre Zabu Ratanar that was opened by an abbot for poor children. However, the centre is facing a shortage of teachers and space.

"In the monastery education centre, there are over 300 children at present. The student enrollment recently increased after many families pushed their children to join the school. The centre is run on donations from locals, and now the school is having a hard time running smoothly due to the increase in students," the youth said.

Most people living in the four wards are day labourers working at local freeze and fish factories, while others work as rickshaw pullers. A typical income is only 20,000 Kyat per month, or about 20 US dollars, which is only adequate to provide daily food for one person for a month.

Many families not only from those wards in Sittwe, but also other parts of Arakan State, have been pulling out their children from government schools due to lack of funds. Despite this reality, the military government announced that 98 per cent of children enrolled in schools in Burma this school year.