Senator pushes for law to protect pregnant learners in schools
Head teachers who refuse to re-admit a learner who drops out of school due to pregnancy commits an offense and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both, if a Bill before Parliament becomes law.
The Care and Protection of Child and Parents Bill which is sponsored by nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka seeks to formulate policies for the re-admission and integration of children who have dropped out of school by reason of pregnancy, put in place programs and interventions.
Under the bill, the management board of an institution of basic education shall develop a management plan for the support of any child who falls pregnant while in school.
The board shall also provide a framework for the implementation of the right to education for all children including teenage parents.
“The management of an institution of basic education shall not discriminate against a child who falls pregnant while in school and shall put in place, enforceable rules and such other mechanisms to ensure that the other children within the school do not mistreat or in any way discriminate against the child,” the bill read in part.
It adds, “Board shall not exclude a child under this part from any programs of the school or force the child to attend different programs from those of her peers only for the reason of the child being pregnant,” the bill read in part.
The proposed legislation insists that a child who falls pregnant while in school shall be given an opportunity to make up for any missed classes or examinations in the case of pregnancy-related absences.
The legislation comes against concerns that some school administrators are still refusing to readmit child parents who dropped out due to pregnancy despite the existence of a school re-entry policy requiring that such learners be allowed back to school.
The National School Health policy which was launched in 2009 by the ministry of Education in collaboration with the ministry responsible for Public Health, aims at ensuring that girls who fall pregnant are admitted back to school and given extensive guidance and counseling.
Despite the existence of these policies, Senator Kwamboka says a majority of teenage mothers are unable to return due to stigma and ridicule from teachers, peers and communities.
As a result, they miss out on the benefits that accrue from education.
“Teenage mothers have been constantly isolated and stigmatized by the fellow pupils with hardly any effective interventions from teachers,” she explains.
According to the senator, the school environment is also not always conducive for the young school-going mothers and that the community is sometimes not willing to support the young mothers who want to return to school.
The Bill is also rooting for the establishment of a National Council for Children’s Services that, in consultation with the Education Cabinet secretary, will ensure such children are not subjected to discrimination.
It also imposes an obligation on the National and county governments to put mechanisms in place and establish programmes that ensure that not only is this right realized in relation to teenage parents, but also ensure that the rising cases of teenage pregnancies and the dropping out of school by teenage parents is curbed.
Critics of the Bill have said it is silent on how boys who are still minors but are responsible for the pregnancies, should be handled without subjecting them to the same traumatizing experiences girls face.
“The national and county governments shall formulate policies for the re-admission and integration of children who have dropped out of school by reason of pregnancy,” the Bill says.