Africa: Girls, education during pregnancy, after childbirth
Getting pregnant for most young girls and women is never intentional but rather a result after different circumstances.
For young girls in school who might get pregnant due to forced marriage, rape or unplanned pregnancies, there is discrimination against them going back to school to complete studies.
In some African countries like Kenya and Gabon, policies have been put in place and implemented to ensure that the girl child’s right to education is respected and practiced.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch released on June 16, tens of thousands of young mothers are banned from schools. The report released during celebrations of the Day of the African Child with the theme “Leave No Child Behind” for Africa’s development, seek to highlight loopholes in Africa where girls are biased in the education sector after becoming mothers.
According to UNICEF data, Africa is registered with the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies and therefore every African Union member country should adopt and enforce laws and policies that support pregnant girls going back to school for both primary and secondary school education.
However, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Tanzania has instilled a ban for pregnant mothers from government schools. Tanzania president John Pombe Magufuli declared, ” As long as I am president, no pregnant students will be allowed to return to school.” Since the mandate was issued, police in Tanzania have arrested and harassed pregnant girls and their families forcing them to reveal the men responsible.
While I was in high school, we were subjected to take pregnancy tests on the opening day to identify possibilities of girls who had been active during term breaks. This was a complete violation of privacy especially because there was no consent. This is what still happens to many school girls in Africa.
Gabon and Zambia are supporting young mothers return to school through the free primary and secondary education, allocating time to breast feed, allowing mothers choose between morning and evening classes and establishing day cares near schools for their convenience.
This year’s theme “Leave No Child Behind” should apply to all including pregnant girls and adolescent mothers. They should not be discriminated because of their current states and should be encouraged to stay in school during pregnancy until a safe stage and also after birth.
In Africa and especially Kenya, we need more of open talks about sex from homes to schools to religious institutions. Parents should engage their children in such “forbidden” discussions to make them aware of what goes on in today’s world and most importantly establish a conducive environment for children to approach them.
“Punishing pregnant girls by throwing them out of school will not end teenage pregnancies ,” said Erin Martinez of children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Many African countries will fail in their promise to leave no child behind if they exclude girls who are pregnant or married, but the whole continent will benefit when pregnant girls and adolescent mothers are allowed back in school.”
From the report, number of annual births per 1000 adolescents are aged 15-19. Teenage pregnancies can be prevented through team-work from the government, community and organizations spearheading talks and programs to end this catastrophe. No child should be set aside from developing through childhood into adulthood as it is every child’s right to education and growth.
Source: Report by Human Rights Watch
Ann Wambui is a Repoter and Writer at Mtoto News
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