In a place where education can already be so scarce, Sub-Saharan Africa cannot afford to discriminate education from willing students for reasons of stigma or outright discrimination. Recently, Burundi has joined a list of countries including Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leon, and Tanzania in banning pregnant girls and mothers from attending school. Many of these policies also involve barring whoever impregnated them from school, which although equal, is only adding to the immense problem that the majority of children aged 15-17 do not attend school.
These laws and school policies contribute to a cycle of mismanaging education; the link between a mother’s education and her children’s is undeniable and if these nations continue to oust thousands of girls from learning, thousands more in the future will go without learning. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world (according to UNICEF) containing the only countries in the world with rates of over 150 per 1000 pregnancies. With rates like this, one might think that catering to this unique situation would be top priority, however, the truth is that the stigma of being pregnant in school is often too much to bear, even in countries with policies to cater to it. Not addressing the issue through education is exacerbating the issue of adolescent pregnancy, also contributing to the cycle.
As stated, some nations do have policies that cater to the situation in order to help young girls stay in school or return to school after they have had their child. Countries like Gabon, Malawi and Kenya all have law on the book that are in line with this goal, which also serves the future goals of the African Union. This dedication to the education of all citizens is something that needs to continue across Africa and the African Union should not stand for policies that actively go against this goal.
For further reading, click these links!
Human Rights Watch-Leave No Girl Behind in Africa
All Africa- Burundi: African Union Shouldn’t Tolerate Banning Pregnant Girls from School
UNICEF Statistics- The highest rates of early childbearing are found in sub-Saharan African countries