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Govt receives accolades for allowing pregnant girls in school

April 1, 2020

By Mohamed Sesay

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other civil society organisations including Child Welfare Society (CWS), Defense for Children International (DCI), Equality Now (EN) and (W.A.V.E.S), have yesterday applauded the decision of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to lift the ban on pregnant girls attending school.

The declaration was followed by a ruling of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on December 12, 2019, which stated that the ban was in violation of the right of pregnant girls to education.

In a separate press statement,UNFPA Country Representative for Sierra Leone,Dr. Kim Eva Dickson, said the lifting of the ban fulfilled the right of individual girls, adding that it is in line with efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and would contribute to socio-economic development of the whole nation.

Dr. Dickson continued that the move by the government to lift the ban on school going pregnant girls would contribute to fulfilling UNFPA’s mission of a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

“As a co-chair of the Sexual Reproductive Health Taskforce, established in December 2019, I personally applaud the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education for taking on board the recommendations of the taskforce to allow girls to continue attending school during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kim Eva Dickson.

Dr. Dickson continued that according to the 2019 Demographic Health Survey, 21 percent of girls in Sierra Leone were pregnant or had given birth before the age of 19 years, adding that many of those girls were forced to drop-out of school and as such were unable to fulfil their full potential.

She further stated that with the recent decision by the Government of Sierra Leone, pregnant girls could now continue with their education without fear of exclusion.

She said they could be encouraged to access timely antenatal care and be supported in safe delivery and also ensure that they return to school to complete their education after they have given birth to their children.

She asserted UNFPA’s commitment to the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education through the Sexual Reproductive Health Taskforce to develop the ‘Radical Inclusion’ and ‘Comprehensive Safety’ policies.

 “UNFPA will continue to work with the Government of Sierra Leone as we strive towards zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender-based violence,” she said.

While lauding the government’s announcement on Monday, Equality Now’s Regional Coordinator for Africa, Judy Gitau, stated that the lifting of the ban marked a new beginning for girls in Sierra Leone.

Ms. Gitau also pointed out that the government’s pronouncement was a step forward for justice as it directly complied with the ECOWAS judgment and the specific orders that had been issued by the Court including addressing some of the drivers of teenage pregnancies in Sierra Leone. She, however, cautioned that there was still work to be done.

“This is wonderful news! It is recognition in Sierra Leone that girls have a right to learn; that girls have rights! That the girl child is an equal human being to her male counterparts in society,’’she said.

On her part, W.A.V.E.S Executive Director, Hannah Yambasu said education is a right for girls in Sierra Leone and that the government has a responsibility to ensure that all members of the society have equal access to education.

“This is the realization of the girls’ right to education. We have won the battle but we must now work to shift community attitudes in order to win the war. We will keep vigilant as we await the implementation of these policies, ’she said.

On his part, Defense for Children International (DCI) Executive Director Abdul Kemokai stated that the lifting of the ban was a win for the girls, their parents as well as the government.

“We now need to implement effective strategies for inclusive education considering the special needs of girls.”

The Executive Director for Child Welfare Society, Moses Mambu, also affirmed that the decision was timely, adding that the decision could not have done at a better time other than now taking into cognizance that the country is now faced with exercise for the coronavirus pandemic.

He continued that the country faced similar circumstances during the height of the Ebola diseases when school girls were violated behind closed doors.

He stated that they would celebrate the laudable decision of the government for lifting ban on pregnant girls, but would continue to champion the rights of women and school going girls.

“This decision could not have come at a better time as we now face a possible quarantine for the Covid19, similar to what we faced during the Ebola crisis which saw numerous girls get violated behind closed spaces. We celebrate but continue to champion the rights of women and girls.”  He said.

 

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