Truancy becoming more frequent at Czech primary schools

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Truancy is apparently on the rise in primary schools throughout the Czech Republic. The most frequent absconders are to be found in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades - in classes attended by 13, 14 and 15 year old pupils. This phenomenon is most common in big cities and psychologists believe there are several reasons for this. Alena Skodova has the details:

Earlier in the day, I visited a nearby primary school, Na Smetance and spoke with the headmaster, Dr. Milan Macek. I asked him about truancy at his school:

"I don't think truancy is a new phenomenon, because it has always existed. Of course, truancy is a very unpleasant thing, for one simple reason: a child is somewhere, his parents think they are at school, we think they are at home, while children may be somewhere where they are at risk. This, I think, is the most serious aspect of truancy and that's why we try to fight it in collaboration with our pupils' parents. But at our school this mostly concerns older, 14 or 15 years old. We've had no case of truancy among children of up to 10 years of age."

According to psychologists, truancy at primary schools is on the rise and it's becoming more and more difficult to tackle the problem. They say it concerns mostly those children whose parents have no time for them. They have no time to devote themselves to their offspring, who naturally become distressed and try to solve the problem through their own kind of revolt - truancy. Then the parents, suffering from pangs of conscience, send letters to schools giving various imaginary reasons why their son or daughter did not turn up the day before. So what does Mr. Macek think about this?

"In some cases we suspect that something like this might be happening. But there main problem is that when a child is not at school and his or her parents write a letter of apology and give reasons why, we have to accept their excuse. But I think when parents try to hide their child's truancy just to protect them from problems at school, they're not them any favours. As I've said, children can end up in danger, and that is especially likely here, in the centre of Prague."

It is estimated that truants form around 70 percent of clients in pedagogical counseling centres. In big cities, especially in Prague, where they live in anonymity, many pupils rely on their parents not learning about the truancy for a long time. But Marta Tepla from the Czech Ministry of Education says the problem is equally dangerous in regions with high unemployment: "When we are at home, why should our son go to school?" is the question some parents ask.

But why do children try to avoid classes? Is it because of their fears of tests, examinations and bad marks? Dr. Macek again:

"So far we've not experienced truancy over tests or bad marks, and I have a feeling that these children don't know themselves why they play truant. As concerns afternoon classes, many of them certainly ask themselves whether they want to go to school or not?'. The weather could be nice, or their peers could lure them out of school. There are many cases when children can't give us a real reason for not showing up, except for a general excuse like "I didn't feel like going to school yesterday."

In more serious cases, when a child has missed dozens of lessons, their absence might be reported to the police and then their parents are held responsible for their truancy.