‘Stop ban­ning preg­nant girls from at­tend­ing school’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Obituary/worldwide -

CAPE TOWN — A rights group has called for the im­me­di­ate lift­ing of a “deeply dis­crim­i­na­tory ban on vis­i­bly preg­nant girls at­tend­ing school and tak­ing ex­ams” in Sierra Leone.

In a state­ment, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said that the ban had con­tin­ued to “en­trench gen­der in­equal­ity in the coun­try and puts thou­sands of teenage girls fu­tures at risk”.

Alioune Tine, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s re­gional di­rec­tor for west and cen­tral Africa, de­scribed the ban as be­ing “mis­guided”, say­ing that it would not be able to solve the west African coun­try’s teenage preg­nancy de­ba­cle.

“The pro­hi­bi­tion on vis­i­bly preg­nant girls at­tend­ing mainstream schools and tak­ing ex­ams is hope­lessly mis­guided, and is do­ing noth­ing to ad­dress the root causes of Sierra Leone’s high teenage preg­nancy rate, which surged dur­ing the dev­as­tat­ing Ebola cri­sis, and re­mains high de­spite this ban,” said Tine.

Tine called on the coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties to increase sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion which he said would help im­prove the al­ready dire sit­u­a­tion.

In a 2015 re­port, the group said at least 10 000 girls were af­fected by the ban.

Re­ports in­di­cated that there was an increase in teenage preg­nancy dur­ing the Ebola out­break.

A study in 2016 by the Se­cure Liveli­hoods Con­sor­tium said that UNFPA sur­veys in­di­cated that at least 18 119 teenage girls be­came preg­nant dur­ing the Ebola out­break.

Even be­fore Ebola broke out in late 2013, Sierra Leone had one of the high­est teenage preg­nancy rates in the world, with 28 per­cent of girls aged 15-19 years preg­nant or hav­ing al­ready given birth at least once.

The Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child in its re­cent re­view in Oc­to­ber 2016 urged Sierra Leone to im­me­di­ately lift the dis­crim­i­na­tory ban on preg­nant girls who were at­tend­ing mainstream school and sit­ting ex­ams.

It fur­ther said that the coun­try should en­sure that the preg­nant girls and ado­les­cent mothers are sup­ported and as­sisted in con­tin­u­ing their ed­u­ca­tion in mainstream schools. — AFP

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