We must ensure inclusive, equitable education for all

Girls attend a seminar against teen pregnancy. PHOTO | FILE

Photo credit: NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Girls have particularly been affected with some of them being subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation that may have led to pregnancy.
  • Women and youth have been viewed as vulnerable because of barriers that prevent them from realising their rights.

The extended closure of schools in a bid to mitigate against the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has raised several unpreventable risks to learners due to the absence of the structured school environment.

Girls have particularly been affected with some of them being subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation that may have led to pregnancy. President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his July 6 address on the coronavirus decried the growing cases of violation of children's rights, singling out teen pregnancy.

Even as the National Crime Research Centre investigates child rights violations, pregnancies among students require both preventive and supportive interventions. We need to stop teenage pregnancy and support the young mothers at the school-going age.

Continue learning

Escalation of teenage pregnancies negatively affects our society. Social institutions like the family, religious organisations and state and non-state actors need to provide information, skills, mentorship and safety nets that decrease the girls’ vulnerability.

While continuing with education can be challenging in their situation, the girls who have become pregnant are still entitled to basic education, and the same quality of education and training as other students, according to the Constitution and related laws. Legally, schools must support them to overcome the barriers to completing studies.

The Ministry of Education has a school re-entry policy, which provides that children who drop out of school be urgently assisted to continue learning seamlessly. School administration should create frameworks and programmes for that.

Women and youth have been viewed as vulnerable because of barriers that prevent them from realising their rights. Low-level education, especially for underprivileged and youthful girls, not only increases the vulnerability but also introduces social and health challenges that take generations to resolve.

Low-quality life

Early pregnancy compounds the problems and can easily see young mothers start a generation with a low-quality life. The ensuing poverty and a lack of independence with regard to life choices make even the subsequent generations equally vulnerable.

Teen mothers also face enormous stigma in the community and at school. They face the double role of playing mother to their children as well as learners.

Juggling these could lead to declining learning outcomes, exacerbating the stigma. Parents, guardians and the community should give them psychosocial support to play these dual roles seamlessly.

We cannot build a prosperous, healthy and equitable society without inclusive and equitable investment in education. Motherhood should not hinder a girl’s right to access quality education.

 All the students recorded to have been in school prior to the March closure must be accounted for, mopped up and taken back when schools reopen.

Ms Bonaya is the Chief Administrative Secretary for Education. [email protected] @muminabonaya