Tar­geted plan needed to tackle teenage preg­nancy

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

In the last two years, 20 girls have got preg­nant and had to drop out of the Kel­lits High School in Claren­don.

THE MIN­ISTRY of Ed­u­ca­tion is cur­rently tak­ing steps to as­cer­tain the preva­lence of ado­les­cent preg­nan­cies in schools across the is­land. The move comes af­ter The Sun­day Gleaner last week high­lighted the chal­lenges be­ing faced by Kel­lits High School in Claren­don, where over the past two years, 20 girls have got preg­nant and dropped out of school. “De­spite the fact that the num­ber of ado­les­cent moth­ers con­tin­ues to de­cline in Ja­maica, as in­di­cated by data from the Regis­trar Gen­eral’s De­part­ment, the min­istry is aware that ado­les­cent preg­nancy is still a ma­jor chal­lenge for some in­sti­tu­tions across the is­land,” the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion shared in an emailed re­sponse to ques­tions from The Sun­day Gleaner. “At this time, the preva­lence is un­known; how­ever, in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions have al­ready com­menced re­gard­ing the anal­y­sis of at­ten­dance data and dropout rates to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the is­sue. It is ex­pected that this in­for­ma­tion will be avail­able in the new year.”

The Ruel Reid-led min­istry re­vealed that a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach will be used to ad­dress the is­sue at Kel­lits High.

“The min­istry has al­ready in­structed the team to con­duct the au­dit for the ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­ven­tion to be put in place. It should be noted that au­dits are also be­ing con­ducted in other schools,” the min­istry shared.

“We are also urg­ing other schools with a sim­i­lar is­sue, or other re­lated is­sues, to con­tact the min­istry so that the nec­es­sary sup­port can be mo­bilised to fa­cil­i­tate the healthy de­vel­op­ment of our chil­dren.”


One or­gan­i­sa­tion that has al­ready com­menced work in the Claren­don com­mu­nity to as­sist the teenage moth­ers is the Women’s Cen­tre of Ja­maica Foun­da­tion, which has es­tab­lished a one-day out­reach pro­gramme in the area.

The pro­gramme has touched the lives of 16 teenage moth­ers since it was es­tab­lished in March of this year, of­fer­ing them free aca­demic classes and coun­selling, with home vis­its also con­ducted to check on the ba­bies.

Coun­sel­lor at­tached to the Women’s Cen­tre of Ja­maica Foun­da­tion in Man­dev­ille, Margo O’Sullivan, who jour­neys to Kel­lits to work with the young moth­ers, be­lieves teenage preg­nancy is a se­ri­ous prob­lem in the area which needs to be ad­dressed through ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ed­u­ca­tion, in terms of go­ing into the schools and talk­ing to them about ab­sti­nence and de­lay­ing preg­nan­cies and so on,” O’Sullivan said. “But not only that, for per­sons to have the mind­set of do­ing other things and be­ing oc­cu­pied with school­work and un­der­stand­ing that be­ing preg­nant at this stage can pose a lot of chal­lenges for em­ploy­ment, so­cial, and eco­nomic rea­sons, be­cause some of them do not go back to school. Also, the mind­set of the com­mu­nity needs to change and parental is­sues ad­dressed.”

With the prob­lem of ado­les­cent preg­nancy not be­ing new or unique to the Claren­don-based in­sti­tu­tion, the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry be­lieves a multi-sec­toral ap­proach is needed to ad­dress so­cial, cul­tural, and eco­nom­i­cal de­ter­mi­nants which con­trib­ute to the is­sue.

“We have, and will con­tinue, to en­gage our part­ners from both the Gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety to de­velop more tar­geted in­ter­ven­tions to meet the needs of our young peo­ple,” the email read. “Ear­lier this year, we com­menced the re­vi­sion of our HFLE (The Health and Fam­ily Life Ed­u­ca­tion) Cur­ricu­lum to main­tain its rel­e­vance, by up­dat­ing con­tent and in­clud­ing new top­ics and ac­tiv­i­ties to ad­dress emerg­ing is­sues, some of which are re­lated to the very is­sue of ado­les­cent preg­nancy.”

The min­istry re­vealed that ear­lier this term, they de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive train­ing pro­gramme to help teach­ers and guid­ance coun­sel­lors, as they com­plained of feel­ing ille­quipped to han­dle the myr­iad sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive-health is­sues fac­ing to­day’s ado­les­cents.

The Na­tional Fam­ily Plan­ning Board, along with the Min­istry of Health and other mem­bers of civil so­ci­ety, are also team­ing up with the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry to dis­cuss strate­gies for strength­en­ing the multi-sec­toral re­sponse and im­ple­ment­ing more ef­fec­tive ev­i­dence-based preven­tion, treat­ment, and care pro­grammes to ad­dress not just ado­les­cent preg­nancy, but other ado­les­cent sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive-health is­sues.


One ap­proach be­ing sug­gested by the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Fam­ily Plan­ning Board, Dr Denise Che­vannes-Vo­gel, is the es­tab­lish­ment of more ado­les­cent-friendly places.

“We know that by 13, the av­er­age boy has had sex in Ja­maica, and a lit­tle older than that for girls,” Che­vannes-Vo­gel said.

“I think what needs to take place is that we should have ado­les­cent-friendly places, so that those who are sex­u­ally ac­tive will be able to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices, in­clud­ing con­doms. Of course, that is for those ado­les­cents who have at­tained the age of con­sent.”

She added, “We also have to talk about em­pow­er­ment of girls and women, de­vel­op­ing life skills and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, as well as vo­ca­tional train­ing, so that with a de­gree of eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence, women and ado­les­cents will be able to take charge of their sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health.”



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