[imText1]In North Korea, where free education has been strongly proposed, the number of students dropping out of school due to economic hardship has been on the rise.
An North Korean aid organization, Good Friends, stated in informational material distributed on the 31st of October, that “In Wonsan, Kangwon Province, there are a lot of children who do not even get to attend elementary school. They are taken out of school due to financial difficulties and follow their parents to the market or sustain existence from digging for medicinal herbs in the mountains and fields.”
According to the source, in the midst of this reality where the student attendance is rapidly falling, disgruntled voices are rising among some officials in Kangwon Province saying, “At this rate, all of Kangwon Province will become illiterate.”
”When walking around the streets or in the market of Wonsan, one can frequently meet children who are selling water. It is easier to meet children in the markets than in schools.”
The source also relayed, “In a high school in Pohang District in Chongjin, North Hamkyung Province, students must purchase three items, which add up to 2,000 won per person, required under the pretext of classroom décor. The list of items includes: a notebook, writing utensils, winter vest, belt, and winter socks.”
”In elementary schools in Hoiryeong, 500g of sunflower seeds per person will be collected in preparation for Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16th of next year. In other regions, elementary schools and middle schools are collecting all kinds of products; the upper-level students are required to bring 20kg of scrap iron, 4 strips of rabbit leather and 1kg of white peace seed. The lower-levels must bring 500g of scrap-iron, 500g of peace seed and 200g of castor-bean.”
The source added, “Students whose family situations are difficult cannot keep up with school education. The number of students not attending school due to a lack of funding is increasing.”
Further, “teachers prefer children who come from well-to-do families and give up on children from poor families. Before, teachers would visit the homes of every student and try to persuade the families to allow the children to return to school, but nowadays, no one takes that kind of an initiative.”
According to the source, the number of street beggars has also been increasing in the vicinity of the Chongjin markets since last October.
“Around the market area, young beggars fighting for food the restaurants have thrown away can be seen daily. During the day, they ask for alms near the market or look for things to eat in the garbage dump. In the winter, since the weather is cold and there are no places to sleep, people gather near steel mills and end up being completely covered with dust and dirt.”