- The pandemic has forced some students to work to help their families financially.
- Many have also been out of in-person school and instead are learning remotely online.
- The lack of in-person learning added to the stress of having to work to support your family could mean more students drop out.
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The challenges of remote classes, and the pressure to work and financially help their families, are pushing some students to drop out of school.
Since the pandemic began, more than 74 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, and in some families, children have taken on the burden of supporting their relatives. Students as young as 14 years old are requesting work permits so they can help their families during the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Counselors told the Times that many students who had previously had high GPAs are now seeing their grades drop as they attempt to balance work and school. Some students find it so difficult to manage their responsibilities that they have dropped out or are considering dropping out.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that 24 million students worldwide could drop out as a result of the pandemic, especially as schools continue to teach online.
“The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to return,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UNCF, said.
Ford also said that lack of online learning resources in many places means that some students have no choice but to stop going to school.
Lack of in-person schooling, she added, exposes children to risks like child labor and sexual abuse.
Drop-out rates in the US have steadily decreased in recent years — from 9.7% in 2006 to 5.3& in 2018 – according to data from National Center for Education Statistics. Statistics for the last two years are not yet available.
However, the lack of in-person learning, coupled with the pressures for some to financially assist their families, could mean the dropout rate goes up.
In November of last year, KVOA reported that in Southern Arizona, school districts reported a rise in students dropping out or just not showing up in classes. Debbie Ferryman, the director of the Dropout Prevention Program for the Tucson Unified School District, told the outlet that she regularly knocks on the doors of about 30 to 40 families whose students have been missing and the schools haven’t heard from the families.
In the Philadelphia metro area, 1% of all essential jobs were held by 14 to 18-year-olds. That age group also represents 8% of people employed in the grocery sector, WHYY reported in June.
Gloria Lumbrano-Torres, an 18-year-old senior at Norristown Area High School in Pennsylvania, told WHYY she started working six days a week to help support her family after her aunt lost her job and was ineligible for unemployment.
“At one time, I was the only one working at my house,” Lumbrano-Torres told WHYY. “I would stay up at night to do my [school] work…I would try and do it on my own, or just rush it, or try and get answers from my friends. It [was] hard.”
“My head was not in school most of the time,” she continued. “I feel like I was thinking more about that situation than school. I just felt lost.”