Empowering young mothers

As this year’s celebration of Mother’s Day draws nearer, we take a look back at our take on how we may alleviate teenage pregnancy, one of the major issues concerning motherhood:
The world has changed and the social dynamics have degraded alarmingly, with the juvenile population paying a heavy price. Fallout of the low threshold of the moral levels of current day society includes the high statistics on incidents of teenage pregnancy.
Often, when a school-aged girl falls prey to the raging libido of adolescence and becomes pregnant as a result, both expectant mother and child are shunned by peers, school authorities, society in general, and sometimes even their own families; and this consequently spells poverty and the direst future for mother and child. However, awareness of the plight of these misled young girls is gaining momentum, and constructs are being put in place to facilitate their empowerment, to enable a good life and a future of promise for mother and child, with education being the key component.
Some years ago, the then PPP/C Administration initiated a programme whereby pregnant teenage girls were re-integrated into the school system. The Government’s project was supported by the United States Embassy, which donated a quantity of baby and hygiene kits to 20 teenage mothers who had been allowed and facilitated by the Ministry of Education to continue their academic studies. The assistance — which included diapers, blankets, bonnets, socks, soaps and towels — was in support of the Ministry of Education’s programme to afford school-aged victims of teenage pregnancy an opportunity to continue their secondary education.
The students were placed at the schools they last attended. However, if they indicated discomfort, they were placed at another school of their choice.
Those above 16 who did not desire to continue academic studies were enrolled at the Adult Education Association, the Carnegie School of Home Economics, or the Sophia Training Centre.
Young expectant mothers came to the attention of the Schools’ Welfare Department following the officers of that department undertaking outreach visits to health clinics, schools and communities.
Girls were interviewed to assess their education level as well as to ascertain what plans they had for their future as parents.
Parents of the young mothers were also interviewed in an effort to make the initiative a holistic rehabilitative effort, with educational sessions done with the teenage expectant mothers with the focus on empowering them to have a future that provided financial security for both mother and child.
These sessions covered several areas, including life skills, building self-esteem, literacy and numeracy, parenting and child care, skills training, stress and anger management, and basic Information Technology.
The objective of the programme was to identify the needs of the targeted individuals; collect, collate and disseminate information on their experiences; empower them to perform their roles as parents; and provide services to enhance and support their well-being.
These efforts were aimed at helping the young mothers to adjust to their new roles as parents.
A representative of the Ministry of Education said the Government had recognised that drastic changes in people’s lifestyles over the past three decades precipitated such occurrences in the social dynamics, and the programme to re-integrate teenage mothers in schools was one of the measures it had taken to ensure a progressive society for the vulnerable.
The Ministry official averred that education is a basic human right, and a child who had become pregnant at 14 should not lose that right.
Head teachers were encouraged to develop a sense of appreciation for teenage parents, as some are victims of broken homes and various other unfortunate circumstances.
According to the Ministry official, the findings of a research done countrywide on the subject revealed that teen mothers have an interest in continuing their education, but need various forms of intervention and support to succeed in this area. These include an education environment that respects and understands their situation.
It is wise to introduce counselling sessions into the school system to prevent such occurrences as teenage pregnancy, because the cost in dislocated lives of families and the young mothers themselves is too high.