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Anaemia fuelling school dropout rate
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 14
Doctors working in rural areas in Punjab have found that a large number of schoolchildren who dropped out of schools were suffering from acute iron deficiency anaemia (IDA). Most of such students stopped going to school as they were unable to carry out normal activities due to lack of energy and concentration.

The observation, though not based on any systemic study, is significant as the Education Department has been grappling with high dropout rate at the secondary school level in Punjab.

“We noticed this trend mainly among 10 to 15-year-old children. This is the age when there is spurt in growth, and IDA becomes quite common. In case the child’s diet is poor at this age, he or she needs iron supplement to make up for the deficiency,” said Dr Aslam Parvez, president of the Rural Medical Services Association.

According to the latest (September, 2009) figures released by the District Information on School Education (DISE) for Punjab, the dropout rate at primary school level was 2.54 per cent, going up to 6 per cent in middle schools and then shooting up to 7 per cent at the high-school level.

“High dropout rate among government schoolchildren is a puzzle specially when the number of children who leave in early years of schooling is half the number who leave at the high-school level,” said Director-General, School Education, Krishan Kumar.

Punjab also has an alarmingly high number of women and children suffering from anaemia. “The latest household survey has revealed that 36 per cent of school-going children in Punjab are anaemic,” said Dr KS Dhillon, in-charge of the school health programme in the state.

Clinical observations points towards a linkage between the two.

“In case a child continues to suffer from IDA, he or she will not be able to concentrate well in the class and often complain of not being able to understand anything in the school. He will have very little energy to play and start feeling tired even on climbing stairs,” said Dr Aslam Parvez.

“We examined several children who had left school on the pretext that they were not able to understand anything. We got their haemoglobin checked and found them highly anaemic. We referred to international medical journals and found that there was a direct relationship between school performance and anaemia. A proper study on this for Punjab is, however, required,” he said.

Dr Dhillon pointed out that as part of the school health programme, iron tablets were provided to schoolchildren last year. “Hundred tablets per child were delivered in schools and we intend to carry the programme this year, too. But this year we will be able to give only 50 tablets per child due to lack of funds,” he said. “However, if the observations made by the rural doctors is correct, we should see a marked reduction in the dropout rate in coming years,” he added.





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