Africa: UN Calls for Access to Education for Pregnant Girls

The officials observed that education is one of the most protective and powerful tools that an adolescent girl can utilize to be healthy and do better in life.

On Wednesday, two UN agencies called on eastern and southern Africa countries to put in place laws and policies to protect pregnant girl’s right to education.

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Etleva Kadilli, regional director for UNICEF in eastern and southern Africa and Alexandros Makarigakis, regional director for UNESCO in east Africa, said that it is unfortunate that only half of African countries have put in place measures to ensure pregnant girls complete school.

“Adolescent mothers need supportive governments that implement laws to protect their rights to education and health,” the two UN officials said in a joint statement that was released in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The officials observed that education is one of the most protective and powerful tools that an adolescent girl can utilize to be healthy and do better in life.

Many girls lose the right to education when they become pregnant, forced to leave school until after childbirth or denied return.

Young mothers who wish to continue their education can face financial issues & social stigma. Let’s empower girls with the education they deserve. pic.twitter.com/jZdBf5mrPE

— UNICEF Africa (@UNICEFAfrica) July 2, 2024

They attributed school drop out of adolescent girls to unsafe school environments that are full of discrimination and stigma hence forcing them to hide their pregnancy.

In addition, the UN agencies said that among the girls who drop out of school because of pregnancy, less than five per cent return, implying early pregnancy marks the end of their education.

They observed that in many countries, including those with favorable laws and policies, adolescent mothers are often forced to leave school until after childbirth or denied the right to return, either by poor school culture, harmful cultural norms, unsupportive families or for more practical reasons like low incomes and childcare burdens.

They noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than six million pregnant and parenting girls (aged 10-19) are out of school.

The UN agencies however said that it is unfortunate that dropping out of school increases the chances of girls engaging in risky sexual behavior, acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and quickly becoming pregnant again.

They revealed that girls who complete secondary education tend to be healthier, earn more, marry later, have fewer children and provide better health care and education for the next generation.