How do Kenya, Nigeria and the UK deal with girls who get pregnant at school in terms of: (1) what the policy is around when they should leave school to have their baby, and whether this is actually implemented; (2) whether formal education is provided while they are away having their babies, how this is delivered, and whether it actually has impact on their learning; and (3) the kind of support girls get for going back to school once they have their babies and how negative attitudes are overcome. Additionally: Identify any information on bridging schools in Ghana and Liberia.
Officially, pregnant girls in Kenya are allowed to stay in school as long as they think they can. However, there are cases where school authorities bar pregnant girls from attending school or girls leave school early to avoid stigma. There is no education provision whilst girls are on maternity leave unless parents are able to pay for tuition. A policy that enables teenage mothers to return to school is in place. However stigma remains a problem. Girls sometimes avoid stigma by attending a different school. Support is provided to gain admission into another school. The re-admission policy is often not implemented. There is a disconnect between policy goals and the socio-cultural realities for teenage mothers re-entering school. There is a radio programme focused on out-of-school teenage mothers to get people thinking and talking about the issue.
There was little research identified on pregnant schoolgirls in Nigeria. Information from those working in the area suggests there is no policy on when girls should leave school to have their babies. Cases are known of girls being dismissed from school when they are ‘showing’ or confirmed pregnant. There is no formal education in place for while a girl is away from school. Opinions and reports of re-admission differ. In some cases those who are out of wedlock are expelled. Data from the North West region suggests girls have pro-actively supportive policies and practices including: separate classes for young mothers returning to school; and child care facilities at the school for young women’s babies. Most girls do not return to school and counselling is not provided for those that do.
In the UK the girl gets 18 weeks maternity leave to be taken before and after the baby is born. Support with transport to school is provided to stay in school for as long as possible before giving birth. Local authorities are responsible for providing support. Home tuition may be provided. Protection from discrimination because of pregnancy in schools is covered in the Equality Act 2010. Schools have a responsibility to ensure a girl returns to school after no more than 18 weeks leave. Girls receive pastoral and education support from a named teacher who they will see regularly. Parents of teenage parents are obliged under the Education Act 1996 to ensure their child regularly attends school.
Bolton, L. Helpdesk Report: Education for pregnant girls and young mothers. Health and Education Advice and Resource Team (HEART), Oxford, UK (2015) 17 pp.