Hard­ship forc­ing Claren­don girls into teenage preg­nancy

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ryon Jones Staff Reporter

KEL­LITS HIGH School in Claren­don is among sev­eral ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions strug­gling with the grow­ing trend of girls drop­ping out be­cause of un­der­age preg­nancy.

Over the past two years, 20 girls have quit the ru­ral school to be­come moth­ers, which has be­come a ma­jor con­cern for the school ad­min­is­tra­tion as they seek to im­ple­ment strate­gies to stem the prob­lem.

Like other schools across Ja­maica faced with this chal­lenge, they are also work­ing with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to in­sti­tute a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing rein­te­grat­ing the girls af­ter the child is born and adding to the cur­ricu­lum pro­grammes fo­cus­ing on the pit­falls of teenage preg­nancy.

But the school ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieves that un­less the so­cial chal­lenges that the girls face in the parish are ad­dressed, their ef­forts will be for naught and more and more girls will be caught in the same trap. Poverty and hard­ship, they said, have forced many of the stu­dents to work or hus­tle for sur­vival, with some girls turn­ing to older men for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, which in turn lead to an un­de­sired com­pro­mise.

In fact, within the first three months of this school year, 11 girls were forced to leave Kel­lits High be­cause of preg­nancy, adding to the nine who dropped out for the same rea­son last year.

“Those are stu­dents who at­tended school last year and were to come back this year but didn’t be­cause they are preg­nant,” Kel­lits High School’s prin­ci­pal, Texal Christie, told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“Some of them ac­tu­ally started the new school year, but then per­sons came and told us they are not com­ing back due to preg­nancy.”

The 11 young moth­ers are among 63 stu­dents who have not re­turned to the school for the cur­rent aca­demic year, as the pop­u­la­tion fell from 1,021 last school year to now 922. Fi­nan­cial rea­sons ac­counted for 33 of the absentees, nine have trans­ferred to other in­sti­tu­tions, eight turn up

oc­ca­sion­ally and two have migrated.

Christie fears that based on the trend, more girls could get preg­nant and quit school within the com­ing months.

“It might get worse be­cause there might be some in the sys­tem who might drop out be­fore the end of the (school) year,” the prin­ci­pal said. “Last year, be­fore ex­am­i­na­tions, two dropped out, and this is the be­gin­ning of the term, so you will have oth­ers who drop out be­fore the end of the (school) year.”

The ma­jor­ity of the 63 stu­dents drop­ping out are those who would be en­ter­ing grade 11 (13 fe­males and five males) and pre­par­ing to sit the Caribbean Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Cer­tifi­cate (CSEC) ex­ams next year. There were also 17 from grade 10, grade nine (16), grade eight (seven) and five from grade seven.


“Why you find it like this is that these are the ones who will go and find work; do a lit­tle hus­tling on the farm and all that,” Christie ex­plained.

“The younger ones will come be­cause their par­ents will make sure, but once they reach grade 10, that is where they prob­a­bly have to start hus­tling and there is where they now be­come easy tar­gets, so you are go­ing to have a greater rate of preg­nancy.”

Kel­lits High School’s guid­ance coun­sel­lor, Faith By­field, said the sit­u­a­tion is not unique to that in­sti­tu­tion, as the economic hard­ship in the Claren­don north di­vi­sion has seen stu­dents drop­ping out from other schools.

“A lot of the times what causes the preg­nancy in the first place is poverty be­cause a lot of them have to do bar­ter­ing and all of this to come to school, and it ends up in preg­nancy,” said By­field.

“So when they are com­ing back to school af­ter hav­ing the child, the poverty is go­ing to es­ca­late, be­cause they now have a child to take care of and them­selves.

Some­times it pushes them not to come back be­cause they can’t find any­body to as­sist them with the child.”

Ef­forts are made to get the girls who dropout due to preg­nancy into weekly Fri­day classes at the school’s mini women’s cen­tre, which is ran in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the lo­cal health cen­tre. There, they are taught math­e­mat­ics, English, so­cial stud­ies, and a sci­ence sub­ject.

They are then al­lowed to re­sume reg­u­lar classes at the

school af­ter giv­ing birth, pick­ing up from the grade they were in when they got preg­nant.

“If they drop out with the baby in grade eight, they will come back and re­peat grade eight,” By­field ex­plained.

“One of the stip­u­la­tions that we have for them to be rein­te­grated is that they can’t be liv­ing with the fathers of the chil­dren, be­cause that would send a wrong sig­nal to the girls that we have here who are not dropouts.”

While there have been some success sto­ries, with two moth­ers hav­ing com­pleted sixth form last aca­demic year and moved on to ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, not all the young moth­ers have fared as well.

“We have one girl who ended up hav­ing two chil­dren be­fore she was rein­te­grated. She dropped out in grade eight, had one baby, and by the time we

could get her back she had an­other child and ended up drop­ping out again, be­cause there was no­body there to stand up with her and the two chil­dren,” By­field dis­closed.

“She was to go into grade 10 this Septem­ber, but she stopped com­ing again be­cause she has to do her lit­tle do­mes­tic work, as there is no fa­ther fig­ure in the home at all.”


An­other chal­lenge that the school faces is that the young moth­ers are most times un­will­ing to re­veal the names of the fathers of their chil­dren, in an ef­fort not to land them in trou­ble with the law for hav­ing had

sex with a mi­nor.

“They are so aware of the Child Care and Pro­tec­tion Act that they will not name these in­di­vid­u­als. Some of them are preg­nant for school­boys, but some of the fathers are big­ger men in the com­mu­ni­ties,” By­field high­lighted.

“They rather take the blame on them­selves than to iden­tify who these in­di­vid­u­als are, with some pre­fer­ring to say they got raped and don’t know who is the fa­ther.”

She added, “One mother said to me ‘then when mi send the fa­ther go a prison, teacher, a me a go mine the pick­ney mi­s­elf’?”

Faith By­field, guid­ance coun­sel­lor, Kel­lits High School, Claren­don.

Kel­lits High School, Claren­don.

Prin­ci­pal Texal Christie, Kel­lits High School, Claren­don.

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