GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
The problem of teenage pregnancy among school girls is a major concern in most African countries. Teenage pregnancy has been cited as a constraint in the elimination of gender disparities in education, and in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education and gender equality in education by 2015. Children born to educated mothers have a higher chance of enrolling and completing school. Children of less educated mothers are unlikely to complete school. Thus, the concern about improving the educational rights of girls who become pregnant is based in part on the knowledge that this will affect the fate of their children and future generations.
At the start of 2008, GR&AP was approached by the Ministry of Education to assist with the development of a new policy on learner pregnancy. Considering that official statistics on pregnancy-related school drop-outs for 2007 show that a total of 1465 learners dropped out for this reason – with 96% of them being girls – this was a critical project to undertake. Problems with the guidelines on learner pregnancy in force at that stage were that they were punitive in nature and often inconsistently implemented between schools.
The new policy was built around two themes: (1) prevention - strategies to prevent pregnancy amongst learners and (2) management - strategies for responding to learner pregnancies in a manner which is in the best interests of both the young parent(s) and the newborn child, with provisions for various forms of practical and emotional support. To develop the policy, GR&AP undertook extensive background research and a comparative review, and facilitated regional and national consultations.
The background research was turned into a 140-page document entitled School policy on learner pregnancy – background to reform, which presents and discusses the national and international framework, summarises relevant research in Namibia and other countries, assesses current policies in other countries, and reports the results of preliminary consultations with learners and other stakeholders. The key points of the discussion were highlighted in a shorter summary document to ensure accessibility. The information gathered through this research was used to guide the preparation of an initial draft policy which was used as a springboard for discussion.
Three regional consultations were held between September and October 2008 in Mariental (covering the Karas and Hardap regions), Oshakati (covering Kunene, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto) and Katima (covering Caprivi and Kavango). The consultations were designed to serve an educative function as well as to facilitate discussion on the draft policy. The draft policy was revised after each regional consultation to incorporate suggestions and to respond to concerns raised. A national workshop for key stakeholders was then held in Windhoek on 14 September 2008. This meeting included representatives from the Erongo, Khomas, Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions. The draft policy was revised again after the national workshop to respond to the input received.
Following the national meeting, the policy was presented to the Ministry of Education’s Ministerial Planning and Coordinating Committee (MPCC) for approval in October 2008 and April 2009. The policy was then presented to and approved by Cabinet in October 2009. This is a momentous step forward for the lives of girls in Namibia. The new policy – which promotes inclusion rather than exclusion and the management of each case of learner pregnancy on an individual basis according to the needs of the learner, family and school – will make a significant difference to the lives of children in Namibia.
Read a book chapter on the new policy: http://www.kas.de/namibia/en/publications/18139/
Implementation of the policy and awareness raising
GR&AP has continued to work with the Ministry of Education on the implementation of this policy. GR&AP educates community members about the policy and has produced a comic about it. GR&AP hopes to be able to continue to work on this issue with the Ministry of Education in the future.