Sierra Leone has overturned a ban on pregnant girls attending school, the government said on Monday, adding that it sought to build a state that embraced every citizen.
In 2015, Sierra Leone banned pregnant girls from going to school after a surge in sexual violence and teenage pregnancies driven by the Ebola crisis.
But in a statement released on Monday 30th March 2020, the education ministry said scrapping the ban “is the first step in building a radically inclusive Sierra Leone where all children… are able to live and learn in safety and dignity”.
Women and girls in the West African country face high levels of sexual violence, partly a legacy of the use of rape as a weapon during the civil war of 1991-2002.
It was the argument of the officials at the time that pregnant girls would be unable to learn and might influence other girls to get pregnant but the policy proved highly controversial.
Human Rights groups complained it was discriminatory and left teenage mothers chained to poverty as they were denied education.
In December 2019, the Court of Justice of the West Africa bloc ECOWAS ordered Sierra Leone to retract the ban.
“This doesn’t change the culture of violence against girls but it moves us in a big way in the right direction,” said Chernor Bah, the head of a local feminist organisation.
He added that successive waves of girls had been shut out of school and the impact of the policy would be felt “for many more years”.
On Monday, the education ministry said the decision to allow pregnant girls to attend school again was effective immediately.
The announcement, however, comes as schools are set to shut from Tuesday in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The journey to a better Africa is a task that every government and organization in Africa must be committed to, thereby ensuring that Africa stands tall among the nations of the world, with citizens who can compete in all endeavors in life.
What better way to ensure the success of Africa’s future generation, than to empower the young ones, especially the girl child, in societies where the girl child does not get the deserved education, healthcare and attention.
This move by Sierra Leone is one in a positive direction, and we hope that other parts of Africa, which have been repressive of the girl child will learn a thing or two and work towards a better future for our young girls and boys too.
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