Cordycep collection and early marriage influenced by cultural norms were a major cause for students to leave schools without completing basic education in the highland community of Laya in Gasa.

This is according to a research conducted by a teacher of Laya Central School, Thinley Rabgay.

With a sample size of 200 from the vicinity, the research, which took him almost a year was done to understand the dropout situation and to recommend some prevention measures.

Compared to 2017, Laya Central School had 11 fewer students enrolled in 2018 and three students discontinued from mid-term break this year. The school has 143 students today.

In 2015, 11 students dropped out of school, 10 in 2017 and nine in 2014.

Household responsibilities, economic factors, early marriage and pregnancy, family education, attitude of teachers, teaching-learning atmosphere and school facilities, and the geographical situation of the school were some of the variables for the research.

Of the total 188 participants included in the research, more than 53 percent of the respondents agreed that students left because of being the eldest child in the family while about 28 said they had to drop school to look after younger siblings.

“This practice of the eldest sibling staying back home to help parents was considered a common custom of the community,” according to the research.

With only about eight percent of the total respondents agreeing that they dropped school for not being able to afford school necessities, affordability of school expenses was ruled out as a reason for leaving school.

More than 80 percent responded that they dropped school to transport goods at home and to collect cordyceps for better earnings.

“Both parents and dropouts say they focus on cordycep collection that gives them a minimum of Nu 100,000 as their annual income,” it stated.

Located 3,800ms above sea level, Laya community’s main income is through cordyceps collection, rearing of yaks, porter services and starting of business among others.

The study showed that girls aged 15 dropped school to marry. “This practice of early marriage is considered a custom in the community.”

It stated that out of the 53 dropouts, 34 were married and two had divorced. “11 dropouts, who got married were below the age of 21 and 16 were between 21-30 years.”

More than 20 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that there was a little influence of parents’ awareness on the importance of education while 29 percent disagreed.

The research indicated that the distance of the school from homes, inconvenient location, and weather as unfavourable factors causing dropouts.It stated that students fall ill as they descend to a lower altitude to study.

It found that the dropout rate has been increasing annually and was alarming to the education sector and the school. “The teachers have been giving a talk on “Value of Education” to both parents and students and made the school welcoming through various programmes and activities to reduce dropout rates.”

After completing class VIII from Laya Lower Secondary School, the students join Bjishong Central School, which is located more than a day’s walk from Laya. Starting this April, Laya Lower Secondary School was upgraded to a central school.