15 Aug 2013

Transport seen as major factor in truancy rates in Kiribati

3:45 pm on 15 August 2013

The Ministry of Education in Kiribati says it's aware truancy exists in schools and believes a lack of school transport could be one of the main issues.

Many school aged children are seen hanging around the capital during school hours and the senior education officer for secondary schools, Danietta Apisai, says it's closely monitoring the situation.

She told Bridget Tunnicliffe that some work has gone into researching why some secondary students are skipping school and says the first challenge for schools is to get accurate records.

DANIETTA APISAI: They do record absentee students from school. Previously we did have trouble communicating with the parents because we didn't have good communications means in the past. Nowadays it's getting sort of better as we have mobile telephones but again there are restrictions from ministries or schools with calling to mobile telephones. They try and follow up to parents if they can get them via the contact that students give them at the beginning of the year.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: So do you feel you have quite accurate records about absenteeism versus truancy or is it difficult to assess?

DANIETTA APISAI: We will have accurate records about absenteeism. With truancy, that's something that will have to be identified if it's actually an absenteeism due to proper reasons or it's truancy.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Do you have truancy officers appointed or does it fall back on regular teachers?

DANIETTA APISAI: That will fall back on regular teachers because we don't have truancy officers per se. We do have what we call a senior mistress and senior master who look after the boys, like senior master for boys and senior mistress for girls, and they'll be the ones who will try and communicate with the parents about the absense of their children from school.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Is there a provision where you can fine a parent if you find that they haven't been making their child go to school?

DANIETTA APISAI: We should be able to fine parents... The thing to be clear of here is that the senior secondary schools are not on all the islands. Kiribati is made up of a lot of islands. We do not have senior secondary schools on all the islands so most of the students in our senior secondary schools, their parents are residing on other islands because we don't have the schools on all the islands. So, if they're on the island, then we can contact them but if they're on other islands then of course communication will be sent to them, correspondence on their children's report on absenteeism and all that. Whether they get it on time or if it does reach them, that's another question.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Do you have any ideas why truancy might be more common now?

DANIETTA APISAI: I believe it's to do with the transportation. The schools on the main islands, we do have problems with transportation because private transport usually don't encourage picking up of students because they pay less. We are trying to provide school transport but there is the issue of providing enough for all the students.