600 pregnant girls to miss-out
April 7, 2015 By Patrick J. Kamara
The Minister of Education, Science and Technology has disclosed to newsmen that a survey conducted by his ministry indicates that 600 pupils have become pregnant as at 18 March, 2015, and those pupils would not be allowed in school despite calls by civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations to allow pregnant pupils back in school.
Speaking last week at the Ministry of Information and Communications’ weekly press briefing in Freetown, Dr. Minkailu Bah said government took the decision based on a UNICEF Fund study on teenage pregnancy in 2009 which states, “there is high probability of young girls sharing the same facility with pregnant girls will themselves become pregnant”.
“This government cannot take [a] decision in vacuum, we have consulted our partners and our position is clear,” stressed Dr. Bah. “We are not going to allow pregnant pupils in school until after delivery. UNICEF’s teenage pregnancy survey in 2009 is also very explicit on it.”
According to the Education minister, the government is aware of children’s right to education, but that such a right should not be exercised at the detriment of other pupils who are in the majority and are not pregnant. He noted that there is the likelihood that innocent and industrious pupils would be enticed into becoming pregnant by the mere presence of pregnant school girls.
Pregnancy, according to the minister, has the potential to negatively impact on the ability of pregnant girls to concentrate and participate during lessons. He however reiterated his ministry’s commitment to uphold a policy by the Teenage Pregnancy Secretariat to protect school girls from becoming pregnant.
Dr. Bah maintained that pregnancy is not a deterrent for girls to continue their education as a policy instituted in 1996 supports the notion that girls should continue their education after delivery, adding that a similar policy is applied to students in tertiary education institutions.
However, advocacy groups within and out of the country have condemned the policy and urged the ministry to reserve it, in order to allow girls who have missed school for months as a result of the Ebola outbreak to be given chance to sit their examination.
Meanwhile, the minister said the ministry would facilitate the re-entry of the pregnant pupils into education institutions after delivery through support from their Deputy Directors in the districts. He promised that they would collaborate with the World Food Programme to provide needed nutritional support which is good for the unborn baby, and to provide pre-natal services to pregnant girls through the Free Healthcare Initiative, as well as training and basic knowledge in literacy and numeracy, among a host of others.
According to statistics on teenage pregnancy survey, Kambia tops the chat with 163, Moyamba 157, and Bo 103. Kailahun, Koinadugu, Port Loko and the Western Area all have zero, while the rest of other districts have lesser figures.