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Pregnant BECE pupils narrate ordeal

April 23, 2015 By Victoria Saffa

Candidates for the delayed Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) may have finally completed writing their examinations few weeks back, yet for over 50 pupils who got pregnant in the Portee and Rokupa communities, east of Freetown, regret and frustration sums up their mood after missing out.

If the Ebola outbreak had not struck in May last year, less than a month to the start of their examinations, they would have sat to the examination which qualifies them to senior secondary school.

But as a result of the outbreak, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology postponed the examination, and by the time the virus showed signs of receding, they were heavily pregnant.

As a result a policy, which the government says it adopted because of a survey which indicated mass failure among pregnant teenage girls who had attempted the examination, barred all pregnant girls in the country from taking the examination.

The policy has sparked huge debates in the country, not least among the pregnant school girls.

According to one of the pupils (name withheld), she had studied very hard for the examination, and expressed frustration that she was barred from writing her papers.

“I am eight months pregnant and I am presently living with my boyfriend because my sister, who used to pay my fees, was angry over my pregnancy and asked me out. I am also disappointed with myself for getting pregnant at this stage,” she said.

She however noted that she would continue her schooling after she had put to bed, adding in tears that, “Whenever I saw my colleagues going for the exams, I felt  irritated and sometimes attempted putting on my uniform to go for the exams, but my pregnancy would always show in the uniform.”

Another pregnant pupil of the Sierra Leone Muslim Union Secondary School told Concord Times that she attempted sneaking into the examination hall but “I was marginalized by one of the invigilators who told me that pregnant ‘women’ should stay at home with their husbands and take care of their pregnancy.”

She noted: “I am devastated because my parents are in the village and my aunt who used to pay my school fees asked me out. I am presently staying with the family. I have no hope of getting back to school.”

Over 600 girls nationwide were affected by the controversial decision to prevent pregnant girls from at least writing their examinations after almost nine months of enforced closure of schools due to the Ebola outbreak.

Rights activists, the most prominent being Chernoh Bah, have condemned the policy saying it lacks empirical fact and only punishes victims of sexual violence further.

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