March 26, 2015 By: Bankole Clifford Ekundayo Morgan, Human Rights Advocate
(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)
It is my view as a human rights activist and a moral educationalist that it should not be as of “right or must” for government to allow pupils – who had been impregnated and soon will become suckling mothers – in school to sit to their examinations. I heard another school of thought advancing a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a supportive document in saying that they should be allowed in school. I respect that view but however I have a contrary one.
THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION IS A POST-WAR DOCUMENT
The TRC is a post-war document which was a product of the Lome’ Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and was set up after the eleven years of senseless brutal civil conflict that engulfed the nation (1991 – 2002). TRC was considered to be highly significant for the healing of the traumatised nation which it reported had been torn-apart due to bad governance, corruption, tribalism, lack of freedom of expression and the press, lack of the respect for the promotion and protection of human rights, etc. I stand to be corrected, but it seems as if some aspects of what led to the senseless rebel war are still happening around us which is bad for our democracy, our enjoyment of human rights and a country which supposes to be in a societal phase.
CIRCUMSTANCE UNDER WHICH THE TRC RECOMMENDED FOR IMPREGNATED PUPILS
It was one of the recommendations made by the TRC for pupils who were impregnated to be allowed in school. The circumstance under which pupils and women in general were impregnated during the war was through sexual assault (rape, it was not willingly as it is with these current pupils whom I believe had brought shame and disgrace to their families as that was not what they were expecting of them).
The recommendation by the TRC was, I believe, due to the fact that the pupils were raped, and so it was strongly for them to be allowed in school. At that time no girl or woman had the gut to deny the rebels and or rapists because they had guns, machetes, etc. As far as I am concerned, the current Ebola outbreak should not be used as yardstick for our girls to be impregnated. In fact these girls breached the Public Health Emergency measures put in place by the government that people should avoid body contact – “don’t touch”.
It is evident that with all the under-mentioned regulations and measures that appear to the President to be necessary as provided for in section 29 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991, these girls went ahead and got impregnated.
- declared a public emergency and popularised the slogan “don’t touch, this is Ebola time”.
- required local government officials to establish laws to support Ebola prevention efforts.
- quarantined suspected Ebola home(s) for twenty-one days.
- instituted quarantine measures for communities affected by Ebola.
- instituted restrictions on public and other mass gatherings.
- declared three-day “Ose-to-Ose” Ebola sensitization.
- authorized house-to-house searches to locate and quarantine Ebola suspected cases and Ebola cases.
- ordered that all deaths be reported whether at home or hospital and should be taken care of by government.
With all of the regulations and measures put in place by government and other stakeholders in order to conquer the Ebola outbreak, yet these girls decided to grossly go against them, especially the “don’t touch campaign”, as body contact is one of the fastest ways in which the deadly Ebola virus can be transmitted. In fact these girls risked their lives; suppose they had been infected with the Ebola virus?
Let me pose this question at those who believe that it should be a right or must for government to allow these pupils who had brought shame and disgrace to their families: is it acceptable or justifiable for these girls to be impregnated during the Ebola outbreak? May I humbly submit to the above school of thoughts that seemingly there is no human rights issue here as these girls willingly allowed themselves to be impregnated? If we want to link their pregnancies with human rights, we must try to investigate the following:
- What are the ages of these impregnated girls?
- Have they reached the age of maturity?
- Who impregnated them?
- What are the ages of those who impregnated these girls?
- Are the men who impregnated the girls state actors?
- Under which circumstance were they impregnated, was it through sexual assaults (rape)?
After getting answers to the above, then one can safely say it has a human rights issue or not. But as it is, it is not a right for government to accept these girls in school. Besides, there is an education policy not to allow pregnant girls in school. If they are allowed, which I think procedurally is wrong, it will serve as a bad precedent for other girls in school. This is not about passion but precedence.
I wholeheartedly support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for not allowing these pupils in school until after they had delivered. Honestly, if they care so much about their education they would not have degenerated by putting their future at risk. It is quite frustrating not only to their parents but also to the society with all the agitation for girl child education.