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Education: student illness or death

Export Indicator

Percentage of students who permanently left school due to student illness or death in the previous academic year
What it measures

To assess the extent of permanent student loss as a result of death and/or illness.

Rationale

One of the notable impacts of HIV on the education sector is the increase in the number of students who drop out of the system. The reasons for this vary, from socio-economic pressures to children having to take on chores at home or responsibility for caring for sick parents or siblings, or children themselves becoming ill or dying.

This indicator provides an indication of permanent student attrition as a result of death and illness, as it considers the percentage of students who permanently dropped out of (left) school as a result of death or illness.

Numerator
Denominator
Calculation
Method of measurement

In the Annual School Census questionnaire, a cross-tab table is provided, by gender, with reason for leaving schools (death, illness or other reasons) as a header and the age of learners in five-year groups as rows. Schools are then requested to provide the appropriate numbers for the previous academic year. There are separate tables for male and female students, with totals calculated.
‘Permanently left’ needs to be clearly defined and aligned with national frameworks that indicate the time out of school. It is generally accepted that students who left school in the course of the academic year without completing the year are considered ‘permanently left’. One does not consider students who leave for a short period and then return to the same school and same grade within the same academic year. Only permanent attrition will be considered, learners who drop out and drop back in again will NOT be included in the count. Using the general enrolment figures, this is calculated as a percentage, to two decimal points.

Numerator
Number of students who permanently left school due to illness, or died, in the previous academic year.

Denominator
Number of students enrolled in previous academic year.

Collection method
EMIS Annual School/College/institution Census questionnaire.

Disaggregation
The indicator should be presented as a separate percentage for:
■ Males and females
■ By different age groups (4 years and below, 5-9, 10-14, 15-17 and 18 years and above)
■ For different levels of schools: pre-primary, primary, secondary
■ Geographical distribution; urban, rural and peri-urban
■ Student who permanently left school due to (a) death and (b) illness.

Interpretation
This is a proxy or indirect indicator,36 as none of the deaths or losses due to illness can be categorically determined to be as a result of AIDS. However, in countries with a generalized HIV epidemic, the proportion of students living with HIV is usually high and therefore this indicator provides useful data on the impact of HIV and AIDS on students, in particular because the concern for the education sector is that students are dropping out of the system.

The findings from this indicator should be triangulated with the data from indicators #9, 10 and 11 (on ‘Percentage of orphaned and vulnerable children, aged 5-17 years, who received bursary support, including school fee exemption, through schools’, ‘Percentage of orphaned and vulnerable children, aged 5-17 years, who received emotional/psychological support through schools’ and ‘Percentage of orphaned and vulnerable children, aged 5-17 years, who received social support, excluding bursary support, through schools in the previous academic year’). There is an overlap between orphaned and vulnerable children and students who permanently left school, as orphaned and vulnerable children may be also students living with HIV.

If the percentage of students who permanently left school due to illness or death in the previous academic year is high, and/or analysis of trends over several years show that this percentage is going up, this is perhaps because students who permanently left school due to illness or death were orphaned and vulnerable children living with HIV who were not provided with the type of support that would have allowed them to attend schools. This could be confirmed by low percentages of orphans and vulnerable children who received bursary support (including fee exemption), emotional/psychological support and/or material support for education and other forms of economic support. If both permanent student loss as a result of death and/or illness is high and levels of support are low, this may indicate that school-based programmes targeting orphans and vulnerable children living with HIV need to be improved and/or scaled up.

The value of this indicator also lies in looking at the patterns or trends over time, by gender, according to age groups, and to look proportionally at how death and illness have contributed to the loss of students.

Measurement frequency

Annual

Disaggregation
Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:
■ The indicator has been field tested and used in practice (in several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa).
■ There is historical data (for some countries) that can be used to measure trends over time.
■ The method of calculation of the indicator is simple.
■ The indicator allows for easy comparison over time and between age groups and gender.

Weaknesses:
■ The reason for death and extended illness cannot be attributed only to HIV or AIDS. It is a proxy indicator.
■ Accurate school records need to be maintained.

Further information

None