Most of the dropouts are from poor families who find it difficult to make ends meet as humanitarian assistance dries up almost five years after decades of civil war ended. This situation is being aggravated by an acute lack of job opportunities and a rising cost of living. “It’s a vicious cycle,” said Sivalingam Sathyaseelan, Secretary to the provincial Ministry of Education.
“The main reason is the lack of jobs. There is no money in these families, and they need everybody that can work, to work,” Sathyaseelan told IRIN. “They are able-bodied and can find odd jobs or agricultural work more easily,” so there is growing pressure on children in their early teens, mostly at secondary school level, to leave the classroom.
The top public official in Kilinochchi District, Rupavathi Keetheswaran, the government agent, agreed. She described the situation for the estimated 40,000 households in the north that are headed by women, or those families with disabled members, as particularly dire, saying, “Sometimes the children don’t have any option but to work. There is no one else to make money for the family.”