Adolescent mothers decry stereotyping
Some adolescent mothers have said they would love to return to school after dropping out due to pregnancy, but many give up due to a lack of support.
Malawi: Some adolescent mothers have said they would love to return to school after dropping out due to pregnancy, but many give up due to a lack of support.
Openly sharing their experiences at a stakeholder’s meeting for a study on parenting and pregnant adolescents in Blantyre on Monday, the adolescents disclosed that they are condemned for falling pregnant so much that when they express interest to return to school, they are ignored.
“People said all manner of negative sentiments when they saw me in a school uniform. Sadly even teachers joined the bandwagon of bullying me. The other day I was late and the teacher told me to my face that the school premises are not a ground for prostitution,” said Sellah Chanache, a Mpingwe resident.
“My parents have been very supportive but it’s the other people who have been calling me names. They have even been discouraging my parents from sending me back to school. They say I’m likely to return pregnant again. But I have learnt my lessons, all I want is to attain education and have a brighter future,” laments another adolescent mother, Stella James from Zomba.
Deputy Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Agnes Nkusankhoma has asked communities to stop bullying adolescent mothers and rather encourage them to return to school.
“There is a lot of stereotyping and bullying in communities. Such deter them from returning to school. These girls need to be given a second chance….. I myself am an example of an adolescent mother who made it in life through a second chance. The adolescents shouldn’t mind anyone else but keep their focus towards achieving their goals,” she said.
African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) factsheet says research has shown that most adolescent mothers would like to return to school but lack the needed support to pursue their educational goals. Some countries in the Sub-Saharan region- such as Botswana, Zambia, Guinea, Malawi, South Africa and Kenya- have policies that ensure that pregnant girls are supported to continue with learning during pregnancy and to return to school after they have delivered.
“……In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, girls’ and women’s health and social and economic well-being are negatively impacted by early childbearing. A vast majority of adolescent girls who get a pregnant drop out of school, which results in widening gender inequalities in schooling and economic participation. Malawi and Burkina Faso currently face a huge burden of adolescent childbearing but have contrasting policy contexts on school re-entry,” reads the Factsheet in part.
It further notes that a vast majority of adolescent girls who get pregnant drop out of school, which results in widening gender inequalities in schooling and economic participation.
In a related development, APHRC in collaboration with the Centre for Social Research (Chancellor College, Zomba) launched PROMOTE project to implement a randomized controlled trial to estimate the incremental effect of interventions aimed at facilitating adolescent mothers’ (re)entry into school or vocation training.
Among other things, this project will provide cash transfers (to adolescent mothers) on condition of enrolment into school or vocational training, provision of subsidized child care and Life-skills training offered by community health workers that will cover nurturing childcare, SRH, and financial literacy classes.
The PROMOTE project started in 2021 and will run up until 2024.