Teenage girls are not being allowed back to the classroom as schools reopen this week across Sierra Leone after months of closure due to the Ebola crisis. The Sierra Leonean government has said statistics prove that pregnant girls always fail when they write their exams.
The authorities managing the school openings also claimed it is not morally right to encourage the sight of pregnant girls in schools. Both authorities said girls can return to school after they have given birth.
Plan International has expressed its concern over the measure, emphasising that girls who have a right to education. Casely Coleman, Country Director of Plan Sierra Leone, said: “Plan expresses its concern over the decision by the Ministry of Education not to allow pregnant girls to return to school and write their exams,” he said. “Plan urges the government to reconsider that decision, as access to education is a fundamental human right and is also a powerful weapon to address teenage pregnancy and other forms of child abuses.”
Thousands of Sierra Leonean children who have missed out on lessons since July 2014 are returning to classes to continue their studies. Plan has joined a consortium of child protection agencies to engage with government to reconsider the decision to ban pregnant girls from school. Fanta, 15, told Plan she felt sad when she saw her friends going to school when she couldn’t due to early pregnancy. “I was attending secondary school in Freetown, but I got pregnant trying to fend for my family while schools were shut,” she explained.
“I had to go and do petty trading in the central town market, after which I’d go to the market and buy cooking condiments and go home and cook. “I hope and pray for the baby’s safe delivery and that my parents will allow me go back and finish my schooling as that was my dream. I hope to become a nurse in future. Baindu, 14, who has returned to school to take her exams, said: “I am so worried about my friends who have got pregnant and did not take the exams.