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Pregnant girls troop back to school

by Staff reporter
03 Apr 2022 at 07:23hrs | Views
SEVERAL teenage girls in Ntabazinduna who had dropped out of school after falling pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools were closed for the better part of last year have returned to school following the intervention of stakeholders in the area.

Government announced that they will now allow pregnant learners to continue with their education and also give them time to go and give birth and resume with their studies.

Before, pregnant learners would be expelled from classes and fail to complete their studies while the males who were sometimes responsible for the pregnancies were allowed to continue with schooling.

About 5 000 school girls countrywide fell pregnant last year during the lockdown and had to drop out of school.

According to the National Aids Council (NAC), Nhlambabaloyi Secondary in Matabeleland North had about 30 girls who fell pregnant during the lockdown and had to drop out of school in September 2021.

However, the majority of the girls have been given a second chance and have since returned to school and are being funded by Plan International.

Councillor for Ward 6 in Ntabazinduna, Clr Alexander Mkandla confirmed that there were cases of teenage pregnancies fuelled by gold panners in the area.

"These figures are from last year and the school children did drop out of school due to pregnancy and some have returned to school already, after giving birth.

They were taken by Plan International, however, not all of the girls returned to class," he said.

Cllr Mkandla said the challenge was that the area is home to a lot of illegal gold panners and the lockdown made things worse as school learners were free and away from school.

"The only thing that they were doing was going to also try and pan for gold with amakorokoza.

So, you find out that the learners then got impregnated by amakorokoza.

It was a challenge; a number of organisations then came through for us as a community to aid the situation.

As for now we are looking at that the numbers go down as schools have opened fully and the learners are back in class.

Attendance is improving and we are hoping things get better," he said.

Asked why some learners did not return, he said it was because they were ashamed of their situation.

"It is not very easy for some of the girls to adjust and come back to school when they have a little child and they have to face their peers.

Some are ashamed and some got married after they fell pregnant," he said.

Amakorokoza have, however, been sensitised on how detrimental it is to marry teenage girls.

"We are trying and we have a number of stakeholder engagements that we hold in this area.

We have Plan International, Ministry of Women Affairs and NAC among others that are assisting by encouraging the teenage mothers to return to school.

There are also other programmes that are being done to empower them so that even if they are away from school, they can be active, we do not want them to be idle.

We want to keep them engaged with projects that will ensure they secure their livelihoods," added Cllr Mkandla.

He said the community welcomed the move to have the girls return to school and said they hoped the learners would have learnt from their mistakes.

NAC provincial manager for Matabeleland North Province Mr Dingaan Ncube said the programmes they are doing for the girls were meant to reduce the risk of them acquiring HIV and empowering them with information on sexual reproductive health and life skills.

"We have in-school programmes meant to impart sexual reproductive health life skills for both boys and girls being spearheaded by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

For out of school adolescent girls and young women we do have programmes like the Sista 2 Sista programme where girls undergo 46 sessions throughout the year under mentorship of a well-trained community cadre.

During the implementation of the programme, girls are encouraged and referred to undergo HIV testing and screening for other conditions like cervical cancer at local health institutions and referred for appropriate services," said Mr Ncube.

He also said amakorokoza have been engaged and are on the ground sensitising them on behaviour change.

"For the artisanal miners in the area again, our approach includes provision of such programmes as the Stop The Bus Campaign where various partners team up to provide combination prevention services and peer led initiatives whereas peers artisanal miners educate each other as a means to achieve behavioural change.

Each trained peer educator works with a group of about 25 boys to impart HIV and Aids information and refer those who require other services to health care facilities.

Other partners also come in to provide services," he added.

Mr Ncube said the behavioural change programme targeted at teenage girls is ultimately meant to delay sexual debut, reduce teenage pregnancies, HIV and other STIs.

The provision of educational subsidies by NAC and other partners like Plan International to in-school girls is geared to ensure that girls are kept at school. Evidence has shown that keeping girls at school has a protective effect against teenage pregnancies.

Source - The Sunday News