Illiteracy and school dropouts remain rife in Iran
Illiteracy has been eradicated in many countries around the world. In some countries in the region, the number of literate people reaches 100%.
While the latest figures provided by Ali Bagherzadeh, the head of the country’s Literacy Movement Organization (ILMO) show some 11 million people are functionally illiterate and nearly nine million are purely illiterate.
The rate of illiteracy in Iran has never been reliably reported as different authorities present different statistics mainly to play down the gravity of the situation. But the same figures estimate that about 11 percent of the population is illiterate. The majority of them are from deprived, remote regions where ethnic and religious minorities live.
In a country that calls itself a pioneer against illiteracy in the region, such huge figures are significant.
Education is mandatory and free in most countries of the world for 6-14 age group and UNESCO has underlined the need for mandatory education for children. Ali Bagherzadeh, however, revealed at a conference at the Ministry of Education that education is not mandatory in Iran.
He acknowledged that the criterion for literacy in Iran is still the sole ability of reading, writing and counting. Whereas literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.
Reasons for illiteracy in Iran
There are recurrent challenges that prevent children living in rural area from getting proper education.
Poverty of families and not affording to pay for their children’s education, child participation in the family’s economic activities, seasonal immigrations, and lacking registered birth certificates, are among the reasons children are deprived of going to school. These reasons are more acceptable among families when it gets to girls. Below is a list of the most important causes of illiteracy rates.
Poverty of families
Poverty of families and not affording to pay for their children’s education is one of the most important reasons children are deprived of going to school.
Fifty-three percent of dropouts are due to financial difficulties that families are facing, announced Ali Bagherzadeh, head of Iran’s Literacy Movement Organization, on July 24.
Bagherzadeh did not specify what this percentage means in actual numbers, child aid workers believe at least a quarter of Iran’s students are forced to quit school with a large number of them joining the children of labor, whose population is estimated to be around 3 to 7 million today.
Drop-out of children is widespread in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Western Azerbaijan, and Eastern Azerbaijan, comprising the country’s highest rate of illiteracy just by themselves.
According to UNESCO, illiteracy increases the likelihood of remaining in poverty. Completing 12 years of school provides an 80 percent chance of earning an income high enough to escape the poverty cycle.
lacking educational facilities
Besides family poverty, lack of sufficient educational facilities in remote and rural areas is the main factor responsible for the crisis.
An administrative clerk in a village in Khuzestan province said, “About 50% of boys and almost all girls have no choice but to drop out of school because there are no middle schools here.” There are currently no girls’ high schools in the city of Hoveyzeh. Amongst the 40 villages in this region, there are no schools dedicated to girls, as a result of which the majority of girls have been compelled to leave their education.
Even those children who have good families and go to school become victims of unsafe systems and irresponsible approach of the educational staff at school.
Hossein Ali Shahriari, member of the Health Commission in the mullahs’ parliament, admitted that some 500 schools in Sistan-o Baluchistan Province are made out of mud, stones, and sheds which make education difficult for the children. (The state-run Jam-e jam network, October 9, 2017)
lacking registered birth certificates
The governor of a town in Sistan and Baluchestan Province says the majority of those children deprived of education do not have identification documents.
Homeira Rigi, the Governor of Qasre Qand who is the first female governor of Iran, talked to ILNA about the high percentage of children and teenagers deprived of education in the province.
“A high percentage of those who have been deprived of education do not have birth certificates and identification documents. Some of them are Iranians who have not been able to attain these documents due to economic problems and cultural issues and some are foreign nationals who share a border with Sistan and Baluchistan and live here. Their children are born in Iran. And others marry Iranian women and their children do not have a nationality,” she said.
In some provinces, early marriages prevent girls from continuing their education and many families need their daughters to help them in earning the family’s income.
Abbas Soltanian, deputy for mid-level education in the Ministry of Education, announced that the drop out of girl students exceeded 151,000 in 2017-2018 academic year. (The state-run ILNA news agency – June 25, 2018)
Referring to the data on the drop out of girl students in schools across the country, he noted, “This academic year, from October 2017 until June 2018, there have been 151,046 girl students who did not register in any schools, their names were not registered anywhere, and were not considered students at all.”
In response to a question on the proportion of drop out of girl students in comparison to boys, Soltanian said, “A total of 4.23 per cent of students dropped out of school in the previous academic year. Girl students constituted 4.17 per cent of it, meaning that there is a big difference between girls’ and boys’ drop outs.”
Soltanian continued by stating that poverty in impoverished areas is among the reasons for drop out of girl students from school. He said, “Even in some parts of the destitute regions, they use children as labor force. Girls are more vulnerable relative to boys in these areas.”
Even though nowadays the majority of Iranian college students are female, there are still parents in Iran who do not value female education. They are likely to force their daughters to marry as minors.
Without further elaborating, Bagherzadeh said about 35 percent of school dropouts in the country happened because of “cultural issues.”