While there are often more schooling options in cities in comparison to rural settings, education remains inaccessible or unaffordable to many children in slum and squatter neighbourhoods. The actual location of schools can be an issue. Schools located outside of Klong Toey, for example, can be difficult and expensive for students to get to. Yet, the few schools which are actually in Klong Toey often have trouble attracting quality teachers. Add to this slum children’s increased susceptibility to illness, to missing classes and to pressures to help the family out financially by working, and the barriers to gaining a quality education soon mount up. It is not surprising, then, that a survey in a Kolkata slum revealed that 84% of school age children were not attending school.
A lack of educational opportunities particularly affects girls; in countries with low overall enrolment rates, fewer than fifty per cent of primary-aged girls are enrolled. Research shows that even the girls who do attend school drop out early for four common reasons: lack of finances, early marriage and pregnancy, domestic work responsibilities and poor performance. While living in a slum and squatter neighbourhood has been described as an ‘urban advantage’ in comparison to rural living, female illiteracy rates are still high in the developing world, particularly in urban poor areas. Certainly those living in urban non-slum areas have much higher rates of enrolment than those in urban slum areas. Again these are long-term—even generational—costs and challenges that residents in Klong Toey face.