...as pressure bears on Education Ministry
June 12, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Information reaching this medium points to the fact that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is under serious pressure from parents and international partners to provide an alternative arrangement for girls who were prevented from returning to school as a result of their pregnancy.
The government of Sierra Leone issued a policy statement some two months ago barring visibly pregnant girls from attending class or even writing external examinations, a decision that drew criticism from girls’ rights groups.
Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Education, Ibrahim Turay, said the decision was in line with the education policy of the government of Sierra Leone that pregnant girls should not be allowed in schools.
He said there have been a lot of campaigns by various organizations on teenage pregnancy and the Ebola rules made it very clear that people should not touch one another.
“The President has said that school children should carry books and not babies,” reechoed Mr. Turay. “The West Africa Examination Council in Sierra Leone has long reported to the ministry about the poor performance of these teenage girls in public examinations, which is the reason the ministry has taken this dramatic step this time. But definitely the ministry is considering an alternative arrangement for these girls.”
However, United States-based group Brac and others continue to advocate for the right of all girls to attend school, or an alternative be found to accommodate girls who dropped out of school for whatever reason to continue their education.
Other global activists have also joined the call to pressure the government to rethink her decision. “The ruling in Sierra Leone concerns us,” says Philippa Lei, advocacy director of the Malala Fund, the organization co-founded by 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai.
Also, Director of Amnesty International in Sierra Leone, Solomon Sogbandi, is reported to have spoken out against the decision.
“It is a human rights issue. When you look at the Education Act of 2004, it makes it clear; it says on no account should any child be discriminated against. This is a serious provision we want government to look at,” said Sogbandi.
In Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy is one of the most pervasive problems affecting the health, social, economic and political progress and empowerment of women and girls.
A multi-sectoral committee has been set up, involving key ministries and stakeholders (UN agencies, NGOs and civil society), to develop a comprehensive strategic response to the issue.