Schools Enforcing Truancy Law

Schools Enforcing Truancy Law  Schools Enforcing Truancy Law

Over the past two years and in the last couple of months in particular, 700 parents have been summoned to court on charges of absenteeism of their children from school, said Deputy Education Minister Ali Baqerzadeh.

In early April, he had warned that authorities are getting tough on violators, referring to the legislation that calls for the prosecution of parents for their children’s truancy.

“Parents who intentionally prevent their children from attending school will be fined 10 million rials ($300), and face imprisonment between three months to a year,” he was quoted as saying by Azad University News Agency (ANA) at the time.

The legislation is part of the Child Protection Law passed by the Majlis (parliament) in 2002 which criminalized child abuse and provided for mandatory reporting of abuse.  

Importantly, the law also made child abuse a civil crime, not requiring a plaintiff, meaning that parents can now be prosecuted for child abuse as well as forced truancy, the Persian language daily ‘Shahrvand’ reported.

While the legislation was not strictly applied all these years in the case of absenteeism, Baqerzadeh said in the final days of the last Iranian year, that ended in  March, and with the cooperation of the judiciary now, the authorities are getting tougher on the issue. Such cases will be treated on a priority basis should school officials report that parents are failing to fulfill their duty.

Now, after two years since it was first enforced, the law seems to be effective as a total of “700 parents were put on trial over their children’s truancy.”

However, none of the trials ended in a court ruling, and children were able to attend school after initial legal intervention.

  Under the Guise of Donation

Regarding concerns that the law could unfairly target families at the lower-end of the economic ladder, the official said all state-run schools (which offer free education to every child of school-age) are banned from charging money for providing educational services.

Nonetheless, almost all these schools charge a small fee, often disguised as ‘donation’.

According to official data, over the past two years (2014-2015), 143,000 children did not register in schools and last year an estimated 67,000 students dropped out at the primary education level.

It was not reported why the children did not register or why they left school at the early stage. But it is generally believed that the kids don’t go to school mainly in the poor and remote regions of the country, because of financial problems or negligent parents.

The Parliament Research Center says three million children in the age group 6-18 in Iran have not been registered in any school or have dropped out for various reasons. Unofficial sources put this number at six million.

Currently, there are more than 12.4 million students in the age group 6 to 18, of whom 7.2 million are primary students, 2 million secondary and 3.2 million are high school students. This indicates that 75% of children have the opportunity to graduate from high school.

Over the years a major debate has been raging on the policy of free education and whether it can or should be sustained. Small wonder that private schools have spread across the major cities and most parents with decent incomes prefer to send their children to these schools.

Though successive governments in Tehran have not yet said it publicly and officially, they would prefer to have parents pay for the education of their children. Some experts say free education, by design and direction, is slowly being given a back seat. The Education Ministry is the nation’s biggest employer and often claims that it is short of funds for the most basic of services for schools, especially in the deprived regions.