Press Release
October 14, 2008

Increasing number of school dropouts due to poor health - Gordon

Poor health has been blamed as one of the biggest factors for the increasing number of children who drop out of public schools and for those who score low in academic achievement tests, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon attributed the poor health among public school pupils nationwide to the obvious lack of adequate health care facilities and personnel in the more than 43,000 public schools across the country.

"Millions of school children are afflicted with preventable and treatable but potentially fatal diseases, making most of them miss out on school days. Worse is that many of them do not eat enough of the right foods they need," he said.

"With a far too large number of our school children getting sick and hungry, how can we expect they learn anything at school at all?" he added.

Recent national dropout statistics indicates that for every 100 children who enter grade 1, only 68 reach grade 6, of whom only 48 finish high school, and only 17 enter college.

Gordon explained that due to the scarcity of government resources to build adequate comfort rooms, health and dental clinics, most of these public school children go to schools without the benefit of medical and dental care services.

He also added the poor health is also attributed to the lack of medical and health personnel in public schools, mindful that one medical officer serves 80,000 pupils, 1 school dentist for every 20,000 pupils and 1 school nurse for every 5,000 pupils.

"The ratio of teachers to students is 1 for every 100 and this is about the same number of toilets to students, which is 1 for every 150. It is no wonder that our children's academic scores and health are all going down the drain," said Gordon.

Gordon said that there were cases where some school children believed they were suffering from a bout of seasonal flu only to discover that they had been

afflicted with dengue or typhoid fever.

Such life threatening diseases, he added, could be detected earlier and a lot of lives could be saved if there were adequate health facilities in public schools.

Government figures show that about 21% of schoolchildren are malnourished; 11.4% of school children aged 6-12 years old suffer from iodine deficiency; 37.4 of school children aged 6-12 years old suffer from Iron Deficiency Anemia;

About 36% suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency; 67% suffer intestinal helminthiasis or worm infestation; 97% have dental caries; 6.23% have hearing impairment; and 2.54 - have visual impairment.

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