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Campaigner slams government for banning pregnant girls from taking exams

April 17, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Co-founder of A World at School and campaigner for girls’ right to education has slammed the decision of the government, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, to ban pregnant girls from taking public examinations.

Dozens of pregnant school girls were prevented from taking public examinations that had been postponed for months due to the Ebola outbreak in May 2014, thus infuriating many rights activists, including Chernoh Bah.

Bah yesterday told Radio Democracy’s ‘Good Morning Salone’ program from the United States of America that the decision was a grave misconduct and a violation of the girls’ right to education.

“I am offended by the government’s decision. I am shamed as a Sierra Leonean. How can a system and government come up with a policy like this? It doesn’t make sense at all. It is bad for our nation and it is not good for our human rights,” he said.

Few weeks ago, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Minkailu Bah, announced that pregnant girls and young mothers were banned from sitting to the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE), according to him, so that they could not influence their colleagues.

But the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone in a press release said the policy discriminates against women and girls, and that the policy would only stigmatize and worsen their vulnerability.

Mr. Bah referred to the decision as boneheaded, adding that education was a right and something that could not be taken away from an individual.

According to him, the controversial policy amounts to a complete misreading of the constitution of Sierra Leone and a blatant disregard of the Child Rights Act, as it was more than probable that many, if not all of the girls would not return to school after being kept out of school for a year.

“The notion that pupils fail exam as a result of pregnancy in one year is not in place. A statistician will not make a decision based on one year. Education is a right and it is something you cannot take from an individual. We should have a system that builds bridges and not walls. We will take the government to court for this decision,” he revealed.

Responding on the phone, Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Theo Nicol, confirmed government had indeed banned pregnant girls from going to school, but denied their rights had been violated. “I don’t think that the girls’ right was violated,” he said.

Human rights groups have challenged the new educational policy, which specifies that pregnant girls and young mothers cannot take the BECE and WASSCE, essentially barring them from graduating from high school or continuing on to university.

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