Reintegration of teen mothers results in fewer school dropouts
Anastasia Cunningham, Staff Reporter
Teenage pregnancy among school-age students continues to be a worrying trend.
However, practitioners are noting that the new national policy for reintegration of school-age mothers has resulted in fewer school dropouts, making it easier for them to assist and properly guide the teen mothers.
"We continue to see teen pregnancy as a cause for concern, but the reintegration policy gives them a second chance. As practitioners, we have been employing different strategies and measures to help with the awareness and to help the students make healthier, smarter, more responsible choices," noted Kayson Jones, president of the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education.
Last November, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites introduced a national policy for reintegration of school-age mothers into the formal school system. The policy makes it mandatory for schools to readmit or admit teenage mothers after they have given birth.
LOWERING SCHOOL DROPOUTS
This was aimed at reducing school dropouts because of pregnancy. Usually, teen mothers attended a special-education programme offered at the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation.
Jones said his association continues to work closely with the Women's Centre to best assist teens, giving whatever support they can. However, he added that there continue to be unreported cases, which were not part of the system.
He said guidance counselors, as well as the health and family life education team, were assiduously working to deal with the issue by developing programmes to raise awareness and properly guide the students.
Jones added that it was important to note that teenage pregnancy was not only as a result of older men, as teenage boys were also part of the whole dynamic. As a result, the programmes targeted boys and girls.
"We are working very hard to give guidance to those who have become teen parents, as well as steer other teens away from going down that path," Jones told The Gleaner.
Key elements of the reintegration policy include:
Mandatory reintegration of school-age mothers into the formal school system.
School-based system for referral and monitoring of pregnant students, in partnership with the Women's Centre programme for adolescent mothers.
Framework for integrating and expanding the support services available to assist school-age mothers to complete their education.
Increase public awareness of the right of school-age mothers to an education and the need to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy.