WEST NILE: The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) has released the regional disaggregated data of the Uganda National Household Survey 2016/2017, shading fresh light on the factors accounting for the high school dropout rate in the West Nile region.

It highlighted expensive education system as being responsible for the dropout of 68% of boys and 65% of girls aged 6-24 years.

While 4.7% of girls and 4.9% of boys abandoned school because of natural calamity such as sickness, 5.5% of the girls and 5.8% of boys felt that was the desired level of education they can attain and 8.3% of the girls and 8.7% of the boys just lacked interest to study.

The report shows that whereas 92% of the school-age going children in the region were going to schools within 3km of their home, few completed primary education and only 11% of those who completed primary level joined secondary school.

Mr Danstan Aguta, a UBOS statistician presented the information to the district planners and the district community development officers from across the region during a two-day dissemination seminar that ended at the Heritage Park hotel in Arua town on Wednesday.

He said some of the reasons for children dropping out were discouragement as a result of poor academic performance, parental decision to deny children education and decision to help their family in the farms.

Early pregnancies accounted for 4.4% of West Nile girls dropping out of school.

To strengthen this point, another UBOS official Mr Yusuf Koire Lugya, quoting information from the Uganda demographic and health survey 2016/2017 said 3% of girls and 14% of boys aged 15-24 were engaged in romantic relationships to multiple partners when they are supposed to be studying.

The West Nile region was also found to be one of those with staggering levels of poverty. Although poverty in the region had reduced from 43% to 34.9% within the last three years, it still remains one of the highest in the country standing way above the 21.4% national level.

While reacting to the report, Mr Simon Ocaki, the Nebbi district community development officer said the big percentage of dropouts due to expensive education system was a contradiction of the universal primary education and the universal secondary education policies.

“So, there is no free education because people are levying charges on children and these are some of the results,” he said.

Mr Genesis Acema, the Arua district vice chairman said the report calls for concrete decision making by the district councils to address the loopholes highlighted in the health, education and community service sectors.

“How can school attendance be at 67% yet access is at 92%. It means our schools are being occupied by rats,” Acema said.

Mr Martin Andua, an assistant chief administrative officer in Arua said the loopholes identified in the UBOS reports also explain the poor quality of education manifested in the low level of literacy and numeracy among school children in the region.

Mr Godfrey Nabogo, the UBOS manager for communication and public relations advised the district leaders to synthetize the data provided with the earlier report of the national housing and population census in order to get the best value out of it.

He said some of the issues raised need behavioural change which can be achieved through talking to the people without necessarily allotting budgets to do them.