Some 3,500 students drop out from school every year in Jordan, Minister of Education Tayseer Nueimi said on Monday, warning that the figure represents a "worrisome phenomenon".
He noted that four out of every 1,000 students drop out from school annually, highlighting that 35,000 students dropped out of schools over the past 10 years.
"This is a disturbing number and must be dealt with and reduced. Students start leaving schools at the sixth or seventh grade and the percentage declines in the ninth grade," Nueimi said.
The minister made the remarks during a symposium organised by the National Centre for Family Affairs (NCFA) to examine child labour and school dropouts.
"Jordan has achieved a milestone in curbing school dropouts … 97 per cent of students enrol in elementary education after finishing the basic education phase, which is obligatory in Jordan," Nueimi noted.
Despite the fact that the number of school dropouts in Jordan is low compared to regional and international figures, the ministry acknowledges that it is a problem that needs to be addressed, he said.
The majority of school dropouts abandon education to work and generate income for their families, according to Zainab Shawabkeh, head of the obligatory education section at the Ministry of Education.
"Studies indicate that the majority of children work mainly in agriculture, construction and car maintenance, which are dangerous vocations for children and pose a threat to their lives," she said in a paper showcasing the ministry's measures to limit school dropouts.
Ministry of Education studies indicate that poverty and economic factors are the main reasons forcing children to leave school, followed by social factors, such customs and traditions and parents' cultural and academic achievement levels.
"Studies also indicate that most students leave school when one of their parents dies or when the number of the family members increases," Shawabkeh said, noting that bedouin lifestyle and the constant travelling also compels some children to drop out of school.
The ministry official added that the weakness of some schools' education systems puts students off.
Nihaya Dabdoub, director of the Social Support Centre for Child Labourers, called for creating early childhood programmes that improve the education process and establish child-friendly schools that provide children with a fun, safe and healthy environment.
"Work conditions and salaries of teachers must also be improved and children must undergo regular health tests and be provided with good quality nutritious meals," she suggested.
Experts in the field of child labour estimate that almost half of the working children in Jordan are employed in dangerous fields that lead to injury or even death, pointing out that child labour results in losses that cost countries seven times more than if children remained in school.
The experts said that there are no figures in Jordan on the exact overall number of working children, but studies indicate that some areas in the Kingdom have large numbers of child labourers, such as Zarqa.