Combining school with work presents challenges for children growing up
in contexts of poverty. Drawing on evidence from three rounds of surveys
and three rounds of qualitative research with case study children, we
examine the complex relationship between school and work in the lives of
children in Ethiopian communities studied by Young Lives.
Analysis of Young Lives survey data showed that a third of the children
were not in school at the age of 8 (when they should have started when
they were 7) and almost a third of the caregivers mentioned the need for
children to work as the reason. Primary school completion rates were
low, with less than a fifth of children having completed primary school
(Grades 1–8) at the age of 15. Children across the board worked as well
as going to school, irrespective of age, gender, location and wealth.
However, girls spent slightly more time at school and boys somewhat more
time studying out of school, and children from poorer backgrounds spent
less time at school and more time doing all kinds of work than those
from non-poor backgrounds. As children grew older they spent more time
on work but the amount of time they spent in school and studying at home
In a context where opportunities for paid work have expanded, the
underlying structural poverty, poor quality of the school system and
limited chances to succeed through education have put a strain on
children’s ability to combine work and school successfully. This
resultant pressure tended to lead children, especially in households
that had faced health and livelihood shocks, to miss classes and
eventually give up and become engaged in full-time work.
The findings raise questions about the quality and value of education
for children living in poor circumstances, the risks associated with the
expansion of paid work and the constraints on children managing school
and work. Potential policy implications include the need for social
protection for children living in households facing shocks, the need for
flexible learning opportunities for working children and ensuring that
when children have to work they are not involved in the ‘worst forms’ of
work, nor in excessive hours or hazardous working conditions.
Tafere, Y.; Pankhurst, A. Young Lives Working Paper 141. Can Children in Ethiopian Communities Combine Schooling with Work? Young Lives, Oxford, UK (2015) 30 pp.
Young Lives Working Paper 141. Can Children in Ethiopian Communities Combine Schooling with Work?