Principals agree with education regulation giving girls another shot at an education, but concerns linger
Senior school administrators in Jamaica have thrown their support behind the education ministry's thrust to ensure that female students who get pregnant before finishing school are given a second chance at completing their studies in the formal education system.
However, the principals warned that it is sometimes best to place the student at another school.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education launched the national policy for the mandatory reintegration of school-aged mothers into the formal school system.
In May, after the education minister tabled a policy paper stipulating the mandatory reintegration of teenage mothers into the regular school system, the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) said it did not support the proposal.
Everton Hannam, president of the NPTAJ, said that while the group supported the continued education for schoolgirls who become pregnant, he did not believe they should attend classes with other students.
Stanford Davis, president of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals (APVP) and principal of May Day High School, pointed to the Education regulations 1980.
"A student of a public educational institution who becomes pregnant shall be excluded from attending the institution during the period of pregnancy, but the minister may take such steps as may be necessary to permit her to continue her education in that institution, or if convenient, in another public educational institution," Davis quoted from the Regulations.
Davis, who noted that students can be very cruel and say mean things that can destroy the teen mothers, said he fully supports giving the young mothers another chance.
"I support the second chance 100 per cent, but my recommendation would be that they go to another school of similar quality," he said.
Enrol at another school
Lorenzo Ellis, principal of Haile Selassie High School and member of the APVP, agreed that in some instances it is best if the teen mother is enrolled at another school for their own sake and for the sake of other impressionable students.
"We would encourage many to go to another school for their own sake. Also, so that you don't send the signal to the grade-seven students that it's ok to do it because you can come back.
"You also have to look at that part of the culture, but then there are the other rights that we have to look at as well," argued Ellis whose school is in the tough inner-city community of Payne Avenue.
Ellis, also told the news team that his school has a healthy track record of giving teen mothers a second chance in the formal education system.
Angela Chaplain, principal of Vauxhall High School and a member of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPSS), said her school has taken back students who got pregnant before finishing fifth form.
"One girl's mother came to me after she had the baby and asked if I could take her back, and I said yes. She was integrated back in school and some people made an issue but that girl was steadfast," she revealed.
However, Chaplain argued that in some instances it is best to have the girls enrolled in another institution and give them a fresh start.
"When they come to my school in East Kingston, if the school (they are coming from) is nearby, I tell them don't send them because somebody is going to pass by and make an issue, but the girls should be given a second chance," said Chaplain.
Heather Murray, principal of Hampton School and president of the JAPSS, said she, too, has seen where reintegrating the teen mother into the school she attended before becoming pregnant caused embarrassment for the young mother. While strongly supporting the move to give the young mothers a second chance, Murray was also concerned about the impact the re-admission into the school she attended prior to becoming pregnant would have on the rest of the school population.