New horizons for teenage girls with children
Guyana Chronicle – April 17, 2008
Teenage girls who became pregnant while at school, now have the chance in a life time to regain their self-esteem and face mainstream society with a new sense of hope and security that will dictate the path of their future. It has now become possible for these “unfortunate mothers” to re-gain their self-esteem and make their triumphal entry into mainstream society, through a programme launched to re-integrate teenage mothers into schools.
We welcome this initiative by the Ministry of Education and hope that these ‘unfortunate mothers’ who were forced out of the schools’ system would grasp at the opportunity that would enable them to face society in a dignified and independent manner later in life.
We subscribe to the view that several factors might have forced these young women to follow the path of destruction, but it is not too late for them to take corrective measures, and the Ministry of Education has cast the dice and it is for them now to take up the challenge. We do not believe that society should turn its back on these people, for the mistake they have made early in life. Instead we should do all we can to help them re-integrate in society in order for them to carry on with their lives in a moral and civilised manner.
The Ministry of Education must be lauded for launching the programme to integrate teenage mothers in schools convened at the National Centre for Educational Research Development (NCERD). The programme which started last year was held under the theme: “Assisting to Achieve Quality Education through Re-integration.”
The initiative is in keeping with the millennium development goals, and targets youth primarily in Regions 4, 6 and 7. Speaking at the launching of the programme, Chief Schools’ Welfare Officer, Mrs. Yvonne Arthur urged parents to bond with the teenage daughters who became mothers in school to restore their self-esteem and avoid further degeneration in society.
In fact, this problem is one that affects many societies – both affluent and non-affluent ones.
According to the US programme: “The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy” teenage pregnancy is closely linked to a host of other critical social issues — poverty and income, overall child well-being, out-of-wedlock births, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare, and other risky behaviour. There are also substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing. Consequently, teen pregnancy should be viewed not only as a reproductive health issue, but as one that works to improve all of these measures. Simply put, if more children in this country were born to parents who are ready and able to care for them, we would see a significant reduction in a host of social problems afflicting children in the United States, from school failure and crime to child abuse and neglect.
It adds that like teen pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy among young adults is at the root of a number of important public health and social challenges. Unplanned pregnancies are frequently resolved by abortion—1.3 million in the United State in 2001, and although Americans differ a great deal in their views about abortion, virtually all of us see value in lessening the need for abortion and would prefer that fewer women have to confront an unplanned pregnancy in the first place.
The programme pertinently noted too that children born from unplanned pregnancies also face a range of developmental risks as well. For example, these children report poorer physical and mental health compared to children born as the result of an intended pregnancy.
In addition, the majority of children from an unplanned pregnancy are born to unmarried women. This is important because children raised in single-parent families face more challenges in a variety of areas than do children raised in two-parent, low-conflict married families. For example, when compared to similar children who grow up with two parents, children in one-parent families are more likely to be poor, drop out of high school, have lower grade-point averages, lower college aspirations, and poorer school attendance records. As adults, they also have higher rates of divorce. Such data suggest that reducing unplanned pregnancy will increase the proportion of children born into circumstances that better support their growth and development, the programme reported.
We note with concern that based on a study conducted by UNICEF in 2004, the above mentioned Regions have a high prevalence rate of the problem, and the initiative taken by the Ministry of Education must be seen as one that would keep these young girls from the evils of prostitution, accepting handouts and unscrupulous employers and other dangers that are injurious to health.
We believe that this initiative by the Ministry of Education opens new horizons for these teenage mothers and sends a clear message to them that the world has not closed in on them. Youth is still on their side, and they should look to the future positively.
Hats off to the Ministry of Education for taking such a caring and bold initiative in efforts to help these people once again face mainstream society and carry on with their lives in a dignified manner.