Date Published: July 20, 2017
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Kazutaka Sekine, Marian Ellen Hodgkin, Sarah Gammage.
School dropout and child marriage are interrelated outcomes that have an enormous impact on adolescent girls. However, the literature reveals gaps in the empirical evidence on the link between child marriage and the dropout of girls from school. This study identifies the ‘tipping point’ school grades in Nepal when the risk of dropout due to marriage is highest, measures the effect of child marriage on girls’ school dropout rates, and assesses associated risk factors. Weighted percentages were calculated to examine the grades at highest risk and the distribution of reasons for discontinuing school. Using the Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014 data, we estimated the effect of marriage on school attendance and dropout among girls aged 15–17 by constructing logistic regression models. A multivariate logistic regression model was used to assess risk factors of school dropout due to child marriage. It was found that early marriage is the most common reason given for leaving school. Overall, the risk of school dropout due to marriage heightens after girls complete the fifth or sixth grade. The risk of girls’ dropping out peaks in the seventh and eighth grades and remains noteworthy in the ninth and tenth grades. Married girls in Nepal are 10 times more likely to drop out than their unmarried peers. Little or no education of the household head, belonging to the Kirat religion, and membership of a traditionally disadvantaged social class each elevate the risk of school dropout due to early marriage. The findings underscore the need to delay girl’s marriage so as to reduce girls’ school dropout in Nepal. School-based programmes aimed at preventing child marriage should target girls from the fifth grade because they are at increased risk of dropping out, as well as prioritizing girls from disadvantaged groups.
School dropout and child marriage are interrelated outcomes that have an enormous impact on adolescent girls, curtailing full realization of their rights, limiting their livelihood options, and harming their health and wellbeing as well as that of their children. There are also broader social implications related to economic development and gender equality. Education is a fundamental human right for all children, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and is seen as an enabling right essential for the fulfilment of other rights thanks to the empowering impact of education on societies and individuals . As such, education was prioritized as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 4 focuses on the right to education for all children, expanding the vision beyond equal access, to encompass issues relating to equity and quality .
The current study shows that marriage was the most common reason given for girls’ school dropout. Overall, the risk of school dropout due to marriage heightens after girls complete the fifth or sixth grade. The risk of girls dropping out peaks in the seventh and eighth grades and remains high in the ninth and tenth grades. The analysis also demonstrates that married girls aged 15–17 in Nepal are 10 times more likely to leave school than are their unmarried peers. Little or no education of the household head, belonging to the Kirat religion or historically disadvantaged social class elevate the risk of school dropout due to child marriage. Girls living in a household with a household head who had not attended school or who had only attended primary school are approximately 4.5 times more likely to leave school due to child marriage, compared to having a household head who attended secondary school or higher. Girls belonging to the Kirat religion are 2.3 times more likely to drop out of school due to child marriage than their Hindu peers. Dalit girls are 2.2 times more likely to leave school due to child marriage, compared to their peers belonging to other castes.
The current study yields solid evidence that child marriage significantly increases girls’ risk of school dropout in Nepal. Despite the limitations discussed above, the strength of the association and the frequency of reporting of marriage as the main reason for school dropout are remarkable enough to warrant the conclusion that child marriage is a main driver of girls’ dropping out of school in Nepal. This finding underscores the need to delay marriage in order to reduce gender disparity against females in school retention and the out-of-school population in many parts of the country. Reducing the risk of dropout requires strategies that retain girls in school and facilitate a smooth transition to secondary education. School-based programmes aimed at preventing child marriage should target girls from the fifth grade because of their escalated risk, and they need to prioritize girls from disadvantaged groups.