We consider it strange that some of our MPs, people we elect to make (good) laws to guide our country to prosperity, have the temerity to argue that a girl who becomes a mother mustn’t be allowed to go back to class after giving birth. Very strange, coming from MPs!
What emerged on Saturday during the debate on the Education ministry’s debate on 2017/18 budget estimates is most disappointing, to say the least. Why, an MP, amid applause from a section of the august House, stood up to oppose a Parliamentary committee’s request to Parliament to push for a policy change to allow young mothers to be in class.
What does the lady MP want a 16-year-old girl mother to do with her life after giving birth? Remain at her parent’s homestead, helping with domestic chores as her age mates learn to be our future doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers…?
It doesn’t require a Unesco-funded research to find out that such mothers are the every kind of young women who don’t take long before they are made pregnant again, then again… as they try using their bodies to earn money for raising their “fatherless’ child or children.
It embarrasses us that we have to remind our MPs about what is actually very obvious: education is a human right. Yes, accessing education is a basic right of everyone in this country—as it is the case in all modern societies.
Right to education
The right to education has been globally recognised as a human right in a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognises a right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education.
The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who haven’t completed primary education. In addition to these, access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses the obligation to avoid discrimination at all levels of the educational system. Now why should we discriminate girls, simply because they have become mothers?
While no one in their right minds will encourage schoolgirls to go out of their way to be mothers, the fact is, a lot of our daughters make the mistake—or are lured to make the mistake—that renders them pregnant. But that shouldn’t mean ending their dream of getting an education.
Doing that would be punishing a child for a mistake which, in many cases, isn’t hers. Even under our good laws, as an 18-year-old, she is below the age of consent. In some ways, they don’t even qualify for mainstream prosecution. Why should minors be punished with denial of access to education?
Our view is: teach our daughters to avoid premarital sex; how to say “No” and stick to it; about the science of how not to get pregnant.
In a word, enlighten them. Now, if a girl gets pregnant despite that, let her give birth, then allow her back to school to and better her chances of being productive and more useful citizen of this growing country.