Not wanted! - Schools refusing to accept teenage mothers
A national policy for the reintegration of schoolgirls who get pregnant, after they have their babies, is being ignored by some school administrators who refuse to accept these young mothers into their institutions.
The violation of the policy which was introduced four years ago is cause for concern for the executive director of the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), Dr Zoe Simpson.
According to Simpson, the right of these young mothers to education within the public school system is being trampled upon.
"We are still faced with measures of discrimination and stigmatisation of the girls who are reintegrated," said Simpson.
"We are finding, too, that in terms of the discrimination, there are some schools that still, in spite of the policy, will not accept the girls back at their schools, and so that stymies the reintegration process. Because the ministry would have placed the girl at 'X' school only for her to show up with her package, and the school telling her now that she is not allowed to enter," she added.
Prior to the passing of the policy, the WCJF was responsible for finding placement for the girls at a public school, but that responsibility has since been transferred to the Ministry of Education's regional officers.
"With the policy, it is mandatory for schools to readmit the girls," added Simpson.
The National Policy for the Reintegration of School-Aged Mothers into the formal school system came about because there were many instances where young mothers were being denied access to schools to complete their secondary-school education.
It was felt that these girls would corrupt the school morality or mar the image of the institution, and so they were often told that there was no space available.
While more pregnant girls are being integrated since the policy, Simpson said that some of these girls are faced with discrimination meted out by school officials and students alike.
"What we are finding in some schools is that girls are lumped into one class, simply because they are adolescent mothers," she said.
"We are also finding that at some schools, a girl, irrespective of the fact that she would have performed very well, just as well as her peers and sometimes further above the performance of her peers, because she is an adolescent mother, she is not allowed to graduate."
According to Simpson, some of the girls have no other choice but to pay to continue their education at a private school or discontinue their academic pursuits.
"It is not that the girls who get pregnant during their adolescent years are less ambitious than the other girls, but we know the circumstances surrounding adolescent pregnancies in our country, and in a number of instances, we are the ones, as a society, that would have created the space within which the girls become pregnant," she said.
"We are talking about nation building and the objectives of Vision 2030. If we are going to get there, then we have to ensure that every adolescent mother continues and completes her secondary education," she argued.