UNFPA seeks special school for teenage mothers

Rafat Salami, Abuja

United Nations Population Fund UNFPA has asked governments across Africa to consider setting up special schools to enable young girls complete their education after early birth.

Worried about the number of girls who drop out of school because of pregnancy, Ms Rachael Snow, Chief of UNFPA’s Population and Development Branch told Voice of Nigeria during the recently held African regional leadership summit on Demographic Dividend (DD) in Abuja, that governments across Africa need to ensure that all girls complete their education regardless of their situation.

Making reference to the yet untapped potential of the female population across Africa, Ms Snow said teenage pregnancy was robbing the continent of its huge female population.

”If they are marrying very young, having children very young and they are unable to complete their schooling, then they are in a cycle where they have so few opportunities to contribute to the economy in a formal way, but also in their lifetime, they never accumulate very much in terms of wealth themselves; the other is how much women give to development so all the creativity and innovation that women can bring to the economy, new ideas for their children education, to education itself, all of these are untapped if we do not let women be full participants in the society’.”

She said government could encourage young teenage mothers to return to school and complete their education.

Still on improving the girl child education, Dr Osaretin Adorin said Nigerian society needs to address issues of stigma associated with early pregnancy. He said many of the young girls who get pregnant early, end up not returning to school because they are stigmatised and taunted by their peers.

He said issues of teenage pregnancy should not only be considered a health issue, but that of human rights, asking government to pay more attention to implementing policies that protect the girl child.

He said more attention should also be paid to the quality of education received in schools.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ranked Nigeria high among nations where a large population of school children are not in the classrooms. The report shows that one out of every five Nigerian children is out of school.

The UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR) said Nigeria holds the world record of having the highest number of its young people out of school. With approximately 10.5 million kids out of school, Nigeria tops the table of 12 other countries, accounting for 47 per cent of the global out-of-school population.

Statistics show that about 40% of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls. Although it is believed that a significant increase in net enrolment rates was recorded in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school.