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When GES Plans To Keep Pregnant Girls In School

By Anthony Amoah
Opinion When GES Plans To Keep Pregnant Girls In School
SUN, 11 JUN 2017 LISTEN

Introduction
The Ghana Education Service (GES) is intensifying its efforts at ensuring that every Ghanaian child benefits from pre-tertiary education, including pregnant girls and teenage mothers.

Must a child be denied access to good-quality education on the grounds of sex or due to the fact that she is pregnant or has just been delivered of a baby? Certainly not!

Stakeholders, including development partners, are seriously collaborating and partnering with the GES to effectively tackle all gender-based and pregnancy-related issues that confront child education, especially girls’ education, in Ghana.

Some 22 personalities, made up of officials of the Ministry of Education (MoE), directors of education, girls’ education officers and representatives of development partners like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), met recently in Accra to deliberate on the way forward for effective gender inclusiveness in education and girls’ education in the country.

Rev. Dr. Christian Koramoah, acting Director for Administration and Finance at the GES, prayed for the start of discussions on two draft documents, such as the “Gender in Education Policy (GEP)”, and the “Guidelines on Pregnancy and Schooling” documents.

Welcome Address
The Director for Basic Education and acting Deputy Director-General of the GES (Quality Monitoring and Access), Mrs. Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam, lauded the Girls’ Education Unit (GEU) and UNICEF for having organised the meeting.

Mrs. Bosumtwi-Sam urged the participants to extensively discuss all the cross-cutting issues, including guidance and counselling,on gender in education and on pregnancy and schooling.

She said several activities would have to be done to promote equity and access to good-quality education for all children, including girls, and to facilitate the entry of pregnant girls and teenage mothers back to school education.

Purpose of Meeting
The Director of the GEU, Mrs. Catherine Nutsugah-Mikado, said the meeting brought together the GEU, education directors and development partners to discuss how child education could be enhanced in the country.

She said the meeting sought to inform the management of the GES about the activities of the GEU and stakeholders on the “Gender in Education Policy” and on the “Guidelines for Pregnancy and Schooling” within the nation’s pre-tertiary education system.

Remarks by UNICEF
An official of UNICEF, whose outfit sponsored the meeting, said the Fund would continue to support child education in the country, including girls’ education.

She gave the assurance that the Fund will work with all agencies and units like the GES, Guidance and Counselling Unit and the School Health Education Programme (SHEP) to facilitate the performance all gender in education and girls’ education activities.

Discussion on “Pregnancy versus Schooling”

A member of the Technical Working Group on the “Guidelines on Pregnancy and Schooling”Tony Dogbe said an intensive research had been done to elicit the views of citizens on pregnancy and schooling in the country with their major findings revealed as follows:

Objectives of “Guidelines on Pregnancy and Schooling”

To promote the right of girls to education and access to equal learning opportunities

To prevent and reduce early pregnancy
To link adolescent reproductive health information and services with the prevention of pregnancy

To eliminate stigma and discrimination against pregnant girls in education

To reinforce child protection measures, including child marriage

To strengthen management and acceptability of pregnant girls in education

Factors Influencing Teenage Sex and Pregnancy

Lack of sex education and moral education
Inadequate psychosocial support and counselling services

The conflict between abstinence and sexual activity

Inadequate access to contraceptives
Lack of responsible parenting
Myths and misconceptions about pregnancy
Influence of the mass media
Influence of some religious beliefs on children’s moral compass

Use of juju
Poverty and marginalisation (i.e. transactional sex)

Unequal power relations (adult/teacher defilement of children)

Why Teenage Mothers Drop out of School
Stigma, discrimination and bullying
Attitudes of parents and guardians
Use of sanctions by community leaders and certain cultures

Pressure of child marriage
Poverty–non-existent livelihood support services, income generation,etc

High rates of illiteracy
Poor educational performance
Factors Facilitating Girls’ Empowerment in Education

Vocational and technical training for girls and work placements

School-fee assistance, free school and scholarships for new mothers’ re-entry inschool

Incentivising parents and guardians of the pregnant teens to keep their daughters in school and by supporting them with micro-finance, social protection and income-generating activities

Providing supportive community and educational environment

Sensitising, encouraging and supporting parents and guardians to send their children to school

Educating communities on school re-entryprogrammes
Improving school environment for girls
Supporting the health and well-being of new mothers, including their mental health

Providing new mothers with sanitary facilities and maternity clothes

Providing new mothers with desks, supplementary feeding and child care

Reviewingthe Social Studies curriculum to promote gender equality and empowerment

Strengthening the links connecting education, gender, child protection and health

Strengthening the rule of law, justice and conducting law reforms, where necessary

Creating and enforcing laws, by-laws and policies
Enforcing compulsory re-integration policies
Enforcing practical actions on child protection legislation to include child marriage

Re-evaluating the Social Studies curriculum
Integrating the Education Sector plans with health and child protection measures

Harmonisingexisting policies to strengthen the prevention and management of early pregnancy and re-entry in school

The re-entry policy should be universally employed and understood in the country

There should be guidelines, procedures and/or policies for teachers and stakeholders on the steps to follow to prevent pregnancy and on how the re-entry policy can be coordinated

Preventing teenage pregnancy through comprehensive sexuality and life-skills education

Improving children’s digital literacy
There should be regular monitoring and evaluation of set targets on teenage pregnancy and re-entry of new mothers in school

Providing alternative measures for pregnant teens and new mothers to pursue their education

Providing follow-up and guidance services to girls and their families

Making boys that impregnate girls responsible for their actionsfollowing appropriate legislation

Supporting Re-entry of Teenage Mothers in Education

Providing access to good-quality education for pregnant teens and new mothersto re-enter, remain and prosper in education

Improving the planning, management and delivery of ‘pregnancy and schooling’ programme

Increasing access to and participation in education and training

Strengthening educational planning and management
Establishing teachers’ code of conduct and ensuring adherence to child protection and defilement legislation

Developing the life-skills and socio-emotional skillsof girls (i.e. self-esteem, identity, negotiation, critical thinking)

Addressing drop-out rates through improving the school environment for girls

Addressing stigmatisation and peer-to-peer bullying

Ensuring that pregnant teens are identified, supported and re-integrated into the school system

Discussion on “Gender in Education Policy”

A member of the Technical Working Group, Dr. AkosuaDarkwah, presented a draft report on the GEP as follows:

Goal of Girls in Education Policy
The goal of the GEP is to promote gender equity and equality in education by addressing all forms of gender-based discrimination within the school system.

Scope of Girls in Education Policy
Guided by the life-long learning approach and as contained in the Goal four of the Sustainable Development Goals, the GEP focuses on addressing gender inequality in formal education and in the Complementary Basic Education and non-formal education systems.

Basis for Girls’ Education Policy
The GEP is being structured to be in tandem with the international conventions and declarations on education, including the following:

Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 1948
Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
Sustainable Development Goals, 2015
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981

The African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, 2004

The African Union Gender Policy, 2009
Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992
The Children‘s Act, 1998
The Education Act, 2008
Education Strategic Plan, 2010-2020
Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda II, 2014-2017

Inclusive Education Policy, 2015
National Gender Policy, 2015
Promoting Equitable Access to Pre-tertiary Education

Increasing the mobilization of resources to schools to provide enough gender-sensitive school infrastructure to attract and to retain girls in school, especially in rural and deprived areas

Improving school management policies to create gender-friendly learning environment

Designing and implementing appropriate and flexible gender-responsive curricular activities, including sex education and life skills

Strengthening the capacity of teachers in gender-sensitive pedagogy and ensuring its application in all schools

Supporting efficient utilisation of the Capitation Grant

Expanding auxiliary services, such as free health care, to reduce absenteeism among students

Providing gender-sensitive structures for reporting abuse and gender-based violence

Promoting the use of gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) in education

Establishing transitional support systems, such as guidance and counselling, to prepare studentson their tertiary education and career options

Incorporating women’s rights as well as sexual and reproductive health rights into school curriculum

Sensitisingrural communities on girls’ education using culturally appropriate tools

Promoting school attendance through relevant sectors and agencies to address specific needs, including gender-based violence, sexual harassment, personal care and development in school

Providing gender-sensitive structures for reporting abuse and gender-based violence

Delineating laid-down processes for the re-entry of girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy and early marriage

Adopting diverse, flexible and gender-responsive modes of education in boarding and day schools as well as in mobile schoolsand in single-sex schooling options

Instituting measures to establish schools closer to communities

Providing safe transport for girls who attend schools farther than 3km from homes

Promoting the presence of female-teacher role models in schools and in communities with focus on rural and less-endowed schools

Developing and implementing scholarship schemes for girls to ensure that girls are retained in school to complete and to transit to the next level of education

Increasing Female Participation and Performance in STEM

Building the capacity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM) teachers in subject contents using gender-responsive pedagogy

Expanding access to and frequency of STEM clinics
Developing nationwide communication campaigns to desensitise and to change the beliefs and attitudes about females’ participation in STEMprogrammes

Improving accessibility, knowledge and use of ICT for women to facilitate learning

Increasing Female Participation and Performance in TVET

Engenderingthe management, administration and governance structures of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions

Developing campaigns to remove the stigma around TVET to attract more females

Creating opportunities for girls to enroll and thrive in male-dominated trades and vice versa

Instituting career and counsellingservices to support females in TVET

Reviewing the effectiveness of the new curriculum which was adopted in 2006 and making further amendments to address gender issues, where necessary

Instituting grants and bursaries for girls in TVET to improve access

Improving Gender-sensitivity in Teaching and Learning

Integrating gender-awareness activities into pre-service and in-service teacher education and training

Regularly reviewing teacher training curriculum and teaching materials to ensure that educational contentsare free from gender stereotypes and biases

Incorporating women’s rights, and sexual and reproductive health rights into teacher-training curriculum

Providing incentives for female teachers who opt to teach in rural areas

Increasing the enrollment of females in teacher training institutions

Providing policy guidelines and legal framework to promote gender-responsive management and administration of educational institutions

Ways of Providing Equitable Access to Education

Promoting the participation of out-of-school children, especially girls, in basic literacy and education programmesthrough Complementary Basic Education (CBE) and Wing Schooling

Promoting the enrollment of learners and the proportion of female facilitators in non-formal and functional literacy programmes

Creating incentives for females to become facilitators and educators in non-formal education programmes

Developing strategic partnerships among organisations, such as the National Functional Literacy Programme, and bodies like the COTVET, through their coordinated apprenticeship programmes to encourage and to reward women in non-formal education programmes

Developing and integrating collaboration between non-formal and formal educational institutions in order to encourage further study and to promote literacy 


Improving Learning Environment for Participation and Retention in Education

Mobilisingresources to provide the youth with gender-friendly reproductive health facilities, including sanitary facilities and sexual-maturation-management programmes and services

Incorporating gender-sensitive sexual maturation and reproductive health issues in the curriculum and co-curricular activities to ensure that girls are well-prepared and supported to positively deal with their different sexual maturation challenges and needs

Training teachers to recognise and to be responsive to the emotional and psychological needs of female learners, especially adolescent girls

Developing information, education and communication materials on gender, sexual maturation and management of adolescent reproductive health issues

Providing separate toilets and urinals to ensure that girls feel safe and comfortable at school

Developing strict policies on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in school

Empowering learners, especially girls, to protect themselves from unwanted sexand sexually transmitted infections through comprehensive sex education and reproductive health services

Setting up monitoring mechanisms for persons in authority in educational institutions to adhere to existing legislation that protect females from all forms of violence, including sexual violence

Implementing a re-entry policy for school-girl-mothers in a non-discriminatory environment

Strengthening GEU for Girls’ Education in Ghana

Upgrading the GEU into a Division under the GES
Increasing the mandate of the GEU to promote girls’ education at senior high and TVETlevels

Enhancing the human resource, financial and technical capacity of the GEU to deliver effectively on its expanded mandate

Implementation and Institutional Framework
Any framework on girls’ education can be effective with the contributions of the following ministries, agencies and institutions:

Ministry of Education
Ghana Education Service
Girls’ Education Unit
National Council on Tertiary Education
Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training

Ministry of Health/Ghana Health Service
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning
Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection

Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies
Domestic Violence Victims’ Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service

Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice

Department of Social Welfare and Community Development

Traditional Authorities
Parent Teacher Associations
School Management Committees
Development Partners
Non-governmental organisations
Faith-based Organisations
The Private Sector
The Family
Review Questions
The following questions emergedafter the presentations of the two draft policy documents as a way of consolidating the issues contained in them:

To what extent can the accessibility, knowledge and application of ICT by girls be improved?

What is the nature of gender-sensitive structures that will be used to report abuse and gender-based violence in the schools?

To what extent can gender-awareness activities be included in school curriculum?

How can TVET facilities and curriculum be constructed to increase female enrollment, retention and performance?

What is the nature of the campaigns that will be used to removethe stigma of girls in TVET?

How do girls enroll and thrive in male-dominated trades and vice versa?

What kinds of career guidance service are available for females in education?

How can gender-awareness activities be included in pre-service and in-service teacher education and training programmes?

What should be the frequency of review of the teacher training curriculum as against gender-stereotyping objectives in any educational content?

How can learning environment promote the sexual maturation of learners for an improved participation and retention of girls in education?

How can the capacity of the GEU be strengthened to supervise girls’ education activities?

What is the relationship between the strategies and the guidelines,as contained in the two draft policy documents?

How relevant is the teacher’s code of conduct in tackling issues of gender?

What is the exact position of the guidelines on pregnancy of girls in school?

What is the extent of influence of the mass media on girls’ education?

What action(s) should be taken against boys who impregnate girls in education?

How can the supplementary feeding for babies by teenage mothersbe integrated into the school curriculum?

How can the special uniforms for pregnant girls be included in school curriculum?

What is the exact scope of the “Gender in Education Policy”?

The Resolution and the Way Forward
The participants agreed to embark on the following activities in order to have the work on the documents completed as soon as practicable:

A select group, comprising the GES and stakeholders, shall formulate a draft guideline based on the facts and figures that have been gathered from parents, teachers and stakeholders.

The focus of activities is to reduce or to prevent pregnancy among school girls and to support pregnant girls in education.

The GEU shall look at the reports of the consultants and formulate draft reports for the management of GES to review.

The final report on the draft policy documents shall be sent to the consultants for final review not later than the end of July 2017.

UNICEF shall work with the GES to have the draft policy documents reviewed in time.

The final draft policy document shall be called, “Gender in Pre-tertiary Education Policy” as it seeks to focus on gender mainstreaming and empowerment at the basic and senior high school levels.

Closure of Meeting
Mrs. Catherine Nutsugah-Mikado expressed her joy and gratitude at the extent of works done and urged the participants and other stakeholders to continue to put up their best.

“Our objective to promote good-quality education among all Ghanaian children, including girls, will be met only if we can finish working on these two documents as soon as possible”, she said.

And I recall that it was the Head of the School Health and Education Programme (SHEP) of the GES, Mrs. EsiAyenbaInkoom, who gave the closing prayer.

The writer is an educationist and a public relations officer of Ghana Education Service.

E-mail: [email protected]

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