Programme launched to reintegrate teenage mothers into schools
Guyana Chronicle – April 16, 2008
By Tajeram Mohabir
CHIEF Schools’ Welfare Officer, Mrs. Yvonne Arthur yesterday urged parents to bond with their teenage daughters who became mothers in school to restore their self-esteem and avoid further degeneration in society.
She made the appeal at the official launch of a Ministry of Education programme to integration teenage mothers in schools convened at the National Centre for Educational Research Development (NCERD), Kingston.
The programme which started last year was held under the theme “Assisting to Achieve Quality Education through Re-integration” started last year.
The initiative is in keeping with the millennium development goals and targets youths primarily in Regions 4, ( Demerara/Mahaica); 6 (East Berbice/Corentyne) and 7 ( Cuyuni/Mazaruni). Those regions were represented by their schools welfare officers.
The Chief Welfare Officer disclosed that these areas were selected because of their high prevalence rate of the problem based on a study carried out UNICEF in 2004.
Mrs. Arthur pointed out that the teenage mothers are receiving support from regional day care centres, half way homes, non-government organisations and government institutions.
According to data from the Ministry of Health in 2000 there were some 3,490 reported cases of teenage pregnancy in the school system countrywide.
That figure the Ministry indicated decreased slightly to 3,472 in 2001 and further declined to 3,138 in 2002 but increased to 3,268 in 2003.
Mrs. Arthur declared: “Reintegration in schools is one sure method of helping this category of teenagers to become trained academically or acquire a life skill which would make them employable”.
This programme the Chief Schools Welfare Officer posited would reduce poverty and the chances of teenage mothers turning to prostitution to upkeep themselves and their child.
She lauded the Minister of Education, Mr. Shaik Baksh for his effort in bringing the initiative to fruition and noted that it will go a far way in lowering the level of the problem in schools.
The welfare officer pointed out that predicament has forced students to drop-out of school and experience problems pertaining to intimacy, dating, sexuality, peer pressure and lack of value.
She noted that the social ill even puts students at risk of contracting Sexual Transmitted Disease (STDs) and HIV/AIDS.
According to Acting Assistant Chief Education Officer for secondary schools in Georgetown, Ms. Melcita Bovell, the problem is not as ordinary as it looks and warned that it could have far reaching implications for social, educational and economic development of the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics data in 2002 the fertility rate of teenage girls was 12.8 per cent.
“A teenager becoming pregnant is not new. What is new is the increasingly alarming level of sexual activity at a very young age,” she remarked.
Ms. Bovell stressed that the initiative is part of the Ministry of Education wider programme to achieve universal secondary education and eradicate poverty.
“The Ministry of Education sees the need to fast track the empowerment of young girls who have children. The ministry therefore finds it necessary to tailor programmes and interventions to meet the needs of teenage mothers, as they are, where they are…when you educate a woman you educate the next generation,” the senior education official said.
The programme was conceptualized in 2002 by the then Minister of Education Dr. Henry Jeffrey and a policy document was subsequently drafted in 2002. The final draft of the UNICEF funded project prepared this year.