…Says gender and human rights activist
November 30, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
As civil society organisations announce an ultimatum for government to lift the ban on pregnant girls to take public examinations, it has emerged that 90% of girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy never return to continue their education.
“The ban on examinations discourages girls who are anxious to continue learning. Worldwide statistics indicate 90% of girls who drop of school due to pregnancy never return. In Sierra Leone the figure is higher, 95%, which is a challenge in the country,” said Madam Yasmin Jusu Sheriff, adding that the advocacy to ‘Lift ban on pregnant young women and girls taking examination’ which was scheduled for 4 to 20 November, 2015 has been extended to 1 December.
Speaking at the Harry Yansaneh Hall, headquarters of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists in Freetown Wednesday, Madam Jusu-Sheriff said the coalition was very much satisfied with the positive responses their campaign requesting government to end the ban on examinations for pregnant girls has generated so far.
She said the campaign had met with several key stakeholders whom they have identified as national influencers to discuss the ban, which was approved in 2010 by Cabinet, to enlist their support to talk to government on behalf of the pregnant girls to reverse the decision and allow and encourage pregnant girls and young women to take their examinations.
She disclosed that they had engaged the Youth Commission, women ministers, All Political Party Association, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in frank and constructive discussion on a wide range of issues relating to the promotion of girls education and ban on pregnant girls to take their examinations.
She noted that it was counter-productive and wasteful for government to have paid for the girls to write the examinations only to later prevent them from sitting the examinations because they are pregnant.
She said the ban on pregnant girls to register and sit the examination undermines the new special education programme for pregnant girls recently set up by government.
However, she said they welcomed the programme and wanted to contribute to its enhancement, although it was proving to be inadequate in meeting the needs of girls because the focus is only on Mathematics, English and Biology and for only six hours a week.
Madam Jusu-Sheriff, who once chaired the Human Rights Commission in Sierra Leone, said by the time pregnancy is detected a girl will be six months pregnant, and that added to six months of exclusive breastfeeding, means the girls will be absent from school for a year. She revealed that research has shown that there are over fourteen thousand pregnant girls under the age eighteen in Sierra Leone, adding that the best strategy is to eliminate early pregnancy and marriage among young girls, and that if a girl becomes pregnant the government should not turn them from school.