Across Sierra Leone, students are preparing to return to school April 14, after nine months off because of the Ebola epidemic. But one group has been banned from returning, according to a new decree by the minister of education: “visibly pregnant” girls.
Minister of education Minkailu Bah announced the ban last week, explaining that “innocent girls” could be negatively affected by their pregnant peers. The ban would prevent seniors from taking the exams needed to graduate and attend college.
And this isn’t just a Sierra Leone issue. The question of how to educate pregnant girls spans the globe and hits home in the U.S. — despite laws here that guarantee a teenager’s right to an education even if she is pregnant.
The ban in Sierra Leone comes at a time when the government has already undertaken a strategy to reduce teen pregnancy, including peer mentorship and health education. The country says that its high rate of pregnancy among adolescent girls is a national crisis. One third of pregnancies in Sierra Leone are teenage pregnancies, according to national health data.