Advocacy: Pregnant Girls should not be expelled from schooladmin 15th July 2019 0 COMMENTS
Gaps in education attainment and achievement are the result not only of the general social and economic context but also of its reflection in education systems. Girls’ early school leaving often comes just before or after early marriage or in the wake of pregnancy. About 90% of births among 15- to 19-year-olds occur within marriages or unions. Globally, nearly 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year; 2 million of them are under 15. In Chad, Mali and Niger, child marriage and early pregnancy rates exceed 160 per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds. Pregnancy has been identified as a key driver of dropout and exclusion among female secondary school students. In Nigeria, Wife of Ekiti State Governor, Bisi Fayemi also decried that the practice of expelling pregnant girls from school is discriminatory.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, some steps have been taken to protect pregnant girls’ right to education. A recent report by the NGO Human Rights Watch identified 18 countries with no laws, policies or strategies supporting girls’ right to go back to school after pregnancy. Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, the United Republic of Tanzania and Togo enforce a total ban on pregnant girls and young mothers in public school.
However, 25 countries were found to have introduced some measure to enable girls to continue their education. Of those, four, including Cabo Verde and Gabon, have policies or strategies allowing pregnant girls to stay in school, without prescribing a mandatory absence after birth. Six countries, including Benin and Lesotho, have laws affirming pregnant girls’ right to stay in school, but lack policies on how to enforce that right. Thus, in the absence of guidance, schools may still expel pregnant girls. And in 15 countries, policies allow pregnant girls to return to school as long as they fulfil certain conditions. In Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini and Zambia, girls are excluded from school for between 6 and 18 months after giving birth. They are often not allowed to return to the same school.
To address the issue, countries need to commit financial resources to support students at risk. They need to offer scholarships with a gender component to help adolescent mothers stay in school. Regulations, general and school-specific policies, curricula, and teacher education must be designed through a gender lens if they are to contribute to equality.