The Schooling Mothers of the Volta
The high rate of teenage pregnancy, especially in basic schools, is curtailing the education of many girls in the country. The Ghana Health Service indicated in a news report that 57,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded nationwide in the first half of 2017 alone. Many girls drop out of school because they get pregnant, a situation that continues to plague the Ghanaian educational system. These girls, some as young as 13 years get pregnant and consequently drop out of school, never to return because of the ridicule and embarrassment associated with having to sit with their peers in the classroom. It is sad to think that with a life expectancy of 64 years for Ghanaian women, these girls will most likely live for the next 45 years with no education and or no employable skills to fend for themselves let alone contribute to the development of the country.
Savana Signatures, a Non-Governmental Organization working to improve quality education in Ghana, has collected the stories of girls in the Ho and Hohoe Municipalities of the Volta region who got pregnant, dropped out of school and returned after giving birth. This provides an insight into the teenage pregnancy menace and the factors motivating teen mothers to go back to school and also provide the basis for an advocacy to encourage more girls in similar situations to continue their education regardless.
Dzifa (not her real name) is now 19 years old and is in JHS two. Her story started two years ago when she was 17 years old. Dzifa got pregnant after engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with a boyfriend she had at the time. She was initially reluctant to go back to school after giving birth but upon the insistence of her mother Dzifa is finally back in school and learning to hopefully have a better life in future. According to her she was at the time not aware that having unprotected sex could lead to pregnancy, a situation that nearly derailed her education and aspirations. She is now learning a lot in the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) lessons being taught at her school, knowledge she admits would have been even more useful if she had had it sooner. “In my former school if they were teaching us sexual education like I will not be pregnant, I would have used protection”.
Sixteen year old Emefa (not her real name), on the other hand, got pregnant at the age of 15, after having sexual intercourse with her boyfriend. They used protection but the condom broke during intercourse, resulting in her having an unplanned pregnancy. Similar to Dzifa’s story, Emefa’s mother played a pivotal role in sending her back to school. Emefa’s mother was of the opinion that she was too young to go and live with her young boyfriend and his family like is done in most cases. Adding that her education will be curtailed if she goes to live with the boy’s parents who had agreed to take care of Emefa and her unborn child. She continued her education even while she was pregnant. She eventually delivered and successfully and went back to school and wrote her Basic Education Certificate Examination. Emefa hopes to further her education at the Senior High School to study Home Economics and go on to become a teacher in the subject. Emefa encouraged girls in similar situations to go back to school and advised parents saying, “When your child gets pregnant don’t sack them to go to the boy, let them stay with you so you can take good care of them and let them go back to school”.
Considering that teachers are not trained at the Colleges of Education to facilitate healthy discussions of sexuality issues with young people in schools, they shy away from responding to SRHR issues of young people as they lack the knowledge, skills and attitude to facilitate safe discussions on sexuality issues. Those who try end up being judgemental. Through the World Starts With Me and the My World and My Life Programmes implemented by Savana Signatures, CSE lessons are facilitated weekly for young people in the project schools. The age-appropriate CSE curricula, “My World and My Life” for primary and “World Starts With Me” for JHS are used to facilitate the teaching of CSE to ensure young people make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Weekly lessons are organized for a club of 50 students in each of the project schools with equal opportunities provided for boys and girls to participate.
Majority of young people are enrolled in school therefore making the school a critical and appropriate platform to reach them with CSE, to ensure they make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This will ensure they are in school long enough to benefit from quality education.