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995 girls dropped out of school after the long break as a result of Covid-19, and we suspect most were pregnant- Lawra GES.

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PLAN Ghana whose mandate is to improve the welfare of children and empower them to be able to demand accountability from duty bearers, has supported the Youth Parliament of Simon Diedong Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies (SDD-UBIDS) to organise a Policy Dialogue on “Supporting Teenage Mothers To Go Back To School” with various stakeholders in Lawra Municipal Assembly.

These stakeholders especially the Municipal Assembly provided coordinating support to the success of the policy dialogue.

The other stakeholders include youth groups and clubs, teenage mothers, the Municipal Director of GES in Lawra, Director and staffs of NCCE, Girl Child Education Coordinator in Lawra, civil society organizations, and the media participated in the discussion in Lawra Municipal Assembly Hall.

The primary goal of the policy dialogue is to provide stakeholders with a better understanding of the processes that drive the teenage pregnancy phenomenon, as well as an opportunity to reconfirm their commitment to reducing teenage pregnancies at the district level.

According to figures from the Ghana Health Service, it revealed that, 13 teenage pregnancies are recorded per hour, with a total of 110,000 cases in the year 2020 alone. Nearly 301 girls were reported to be impregnated every day.

For those aged between 10 and 14 years, a total of 2,865 pregnancies were recorded while those aged between 15 and 19 years recorded 107,023 cases in Ghana.

In Upper West Region of Ghana, 386 cases of teenage pregnancies under the age of 14 years were reported in the last five years, while 17, 839 were between the ages of 15 and 19.

Dr Adams Abdulai, the Patron of Youth Parliament and the convener of this Policy dialogue, emphasized that, teenage pregnancy remains a serious problem, with alarming statistics.

He indicated that, parental control and responsibility as well as sex education has remained low across the country and this has contributed to this trend of alarming statistics.

He also went on to say, despite massive efforts by the government, development partners, and civil society organizations to significantly reduce the trend, teenage pregnancy rates in the Region have only fallen moderately since 2016.

The government’s “Back to School Campaign” has instituted measures to help reduce teenage pregnancies and school drop outs. However, the key question is: why are these interventions unsuccessful in ending teenage pregnancies and what do we need to do differently to get results?

According to Dr. Adams Abdulai, this dialogue takes a unique approach to doing things differently, which will encourage long-term support for young mothers returning to school.

According to him, this includes holding a policy dialogue with key stakeholders at the district level to gain a clear understanding of the dynamics that underpin the teenage pregnancy issue in different districts and developing a road map that will be applicable and effective in getting teenage mothers back to school.

He went on to say, this policy discussion will assist stakeholders in raising issues, sharing viewpoints, finding common ground, and reaching agreement or consensus on policy solutions (if possible).

When done correctly, the policy dialogue will help stakeholders see problems from each other’s perspectives, improve understanding of the impact that policies and programs can have on various groups, encourage participation in the policy process, and increase ownership of the dialogue’s outcomes and recommendations in a more responsive manner.

This dialogue he says, will also allow individuals, particularly adolescents, a say in issues that affect their lives and health, and it promotes policy consensus.

Current state of teenage pregnancy in Lawra Municipal.

According to a GES official, the current situation of teenage pregnancies or moms, the Municipality officially documented 23 teenage pregnancies and 5 teenage mothers in the year 2020. They registered 9 teen pregnancies in the year 2021 BECE, 5 in Bable, 1 in Zambo, and 3 in Lawra township.

In terms of school dropouts, the Municipality believes that, exactly 995 girls dropped out of school after the long break as a result of Covid-19, some of whom may have become pregnant, while others may have travelled to the southern part of the country to take menial jobs such as ‘Kayaye’ or washing bowls in restaurants.

Some have been enrolled in apprenticeship within the Lawra township, unofficially known to GES, and the rest are unknown to them.

The Ghana Health Service official indicated in his report that, based on their statistics, teenage pregnancy is a concern in the Municipality. They discovered that when the number of pregnancies reported rises, so does the number of teenage pregnancies in the municipality.

They reported 1,315 anti-natal registrations in 2018, 150 of whom were adolescents, accounting for 11.4% of all pregnancies.

In 2019, the directorate registered 1,551 Ante-Natal Care registrations, with 203 of them (or 13.1 percent) being teenagers or adolescents.

In addition, we documented 1,533 pregnancies in 2020, with 176 of them being teenage pregnancies, accounting for 11.5 percent of all pregnancies. The numbers that became mothers, the Health Directorate has no data on that he said.

When it came to the main topic, and with the above statistics of teenage pregnancy in the Municipality in mind, the dialogue was focused on the following questions;

Question 1
Financing has always been a challenge in getting children to go to school and retaining them. Discuss what can be done at both national and local levels to address this challenge with respect to teenage mothers?

“Firstly, the participants suggested that, percentage of the funds available at the national level like GETFUND, should be allocated to teenage mothers within the district level.

Secondly, Municipal Assembly should set aside a percentage of the Municipal Assembly common fund to support teenage mothers return to school.

A percentage of MP’s common fund should be allocated to child education.

The youth associations should set up educational fund to support the teenage mothers to go back to school and GES should also develop proposals for financial support to NGOs that have interests in girl child education.”

Group 1 presenting on Question 1
Question 2  
Support for teenage mothers has largely been neglected in our educational system. Discuss the kind of support that teenage mothers need and the delivery mechanisms/pathways to effectively reach out to them. 

“Dealing with issues of stigma, guidance and counselling services, engaging parents to understand the need for them to support the teenage mother to go back to school, support for teenage mothers by NGOs, Municipal Assembly etc, can help by providing some of their basic needs.

Scholarships schemes for teenage mothers, organising workshops/talk shows for teenage mothers and organising teenage mothers into groups or association for easy delivery of support or services.”

Group 2 presenting on Question 2
Question 3
How can we ensure that teenage mothers are not marginalized in schools and society in general and promote equal access to education and health-related services?

“Sensitization of teenage mothers, parents, teachers, other students, chiefs/ opinion leaders, the community and religious leaders.

The sensitization should be done through, community durbars, Parents Association meetings in School, jingles played at markets centers, Radio talk shows and social media advertisements in the form of videos or writeups.

Secondly, there is the need to ensure that schools have an effective counselling unit.

Monitoring teams should be established to monitor activities of teenage mothers for progress.

Teenage mothers should be assigned responsibilities to motivate them have interests in school activities.”

Group 3 presenting on Question 3
Question 4
Existing policies and programmes have failed to resolve the challenge of teenage pregnancies in Ghana. Why this persistence? What alternative ways that can be employed to address the problem especially at the district level.

“Most of the policies and programmes fail as a result of the following;

Inadequate resources with respect to Human resources and Funding. Inadequate monitoring and evaluations systems. Lack of clear roles. Poor enforcement strategies.

To prevent these failures of the policies and programmes that aims to resolving the challenges of rising teenage pregnancies in Ghana, these alternatives can be employed;

Proper public education. Provision of resources (human and capital).

Enforcement of policies and programmes. Proper monitoring and evaluation strategies. Proper stakeholder engagement and defined roles and responsibilities.”

Group 4 presenting on Question 4

Read Also: Most Young Girls In Jirapa Municipality End Up Being Pregnant Because Of 5 Cedis Pad – Madam Sophia S. K. Jakpa (District Coordinator in Charge Of Girl Child Education)

Question 5
What policy models/options and implementation strategies should be adopted to get teenage mothers go back to school?

“Sensitization on the need to go back to school. Community entry and stakeholder consultation. Identifying the needs of the teenage mother. Support from parents and guidance. Support from NGOs.”

Group 5 presenting on Question 5

Some participants also provided their perspectives on preventive actions, such as identifying the perpetrators of this menace and ensuring that law enforcement agencies deal with them.

Others also blamed the constitution of the country with regards to age. In Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), it outlines the age of sexual consent at 16 years old.

This is, therefore, the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in any sexual activity. With this, many believe they can do this and get away with it and these have greatly contributed to the increasing number of teenage pregnancies in the country.

995 girls dropped out of school after the long break as a result of Covid-19, and we suspect most were pregnant- Lawra GES.

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