The heads of Guyana’s 11 education districts were briefed on Wednesday on a draft policy for the re-integration of adolescent mothers into the formal school system as part of efforts to address the impact of the high rate of teenage pregnancy.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Education (MoE), the various Regional Education Officers (REdOs) were briefed by Youth and Adolescent Development Officer for UNICEF Guyana Jewell Crosse and Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) Coordinator within the Ministry of Education Colleen King-Cameron.
The briefing is part of the activities scheduled for the Annual REdOs Retreat, which is being held this year in Mahdia, Region Eight.
The policy, according to the MoE, is geared towards the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, treating with pregnant adolescents and the administration of the re-integration process of adolescent mothers into the formal school system.
The statement explained that the REdOs were informed that causes of pregnancy among adolescents include poverty, peer pressure, sexual abuse, lack of sexual education and low self-esteem.
Crosse, it noted, highlighted the importance of a re-integration policy, while noting that data shows that one in every five pregnancies in Guyana involves a teenager. Further, she said that addressing the issue of adolescent pregnancy requires a multi-agency approach that would include a number of government ministries, including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Social Protection.
The statement added that REdO’s discussed steps that can be taken when treating with cases of pregnant adolescents, including a psycho-social intervention with the child and involving parents or guardians in the process to chart a course forward.
Notably, Crosse indicated that the policy proposed that similar steps be taken with the father if he is also a student, while stressing that counselling and support has been identified as a service that should be provided to all parties involved.
Meanwhile, the statement said King-Cameron highlighted some of the measures that are necessary for the successful implementation of the policy.
She noted that providing a supportive environment that ensures teachers, students and general school staff are sensitised to the needs of the adolescent child as well as advocacy on the right to and benefits of education are needed.
It was explained that through re-integration, adolescent mothers will be given the opportunity to complete their secondary education and increase their chances of pursuing tertiary-level education. Re-integration, the presenters argued, can help to break the cycle of poverty, break the inter-generational cycle of adolescent pregnancy and afford them their right to an education.