Girls should not abuse re-entry policy

A Secondary School in Sesheke

In SEPTEMBER 1997, a conference on girls’ education was held at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
At the indaba, the then Minister of Education announced that school girls who became pregnant would no longer be expelled.
The minister went on to declare that those who had been expelled in 1997 must be allowed to return to school.
The Ministry of Education came up with the wonderful re-entry policy because education is a right, regardless of a girl’s situation.
Other reasons advanced were that the policy would increase women’s literacy levels, empower women to look after their children, bridge the gender gap in education and give women a chance to contribute to national development.
Well, this re-entry policy has really been working well and many girls have benefited. We have many girls who got a second chance and doing very well in secondary school education.
For example, between 2009 and 2011 a total of 12,617 school girls who were pregnant benefited from the re-entry policy. Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education John Phiri told Parliament. (Lusaka Times, September 25, 2012)
Some of us had the opportunity to teach these girls and they went on to study at various higher institutions of learning.
Unfortunately, while many of them  have benefited from the re-entry policy, others have tended to abuse it by making another mistake of becoming pregnant while still at school.
The girls take advantage of the flexibility of the policy as schools are mandated to re-admit the pupil provided there is necessary counseling.
Besides, some girls become a bad influence on their class or schoolmates leading them into temptations, knowing very well that should they fall pregnant they will just go on ‘maternity leave’ and come back to school after giving birth and recovering from the labour.
Besides, some of the re-admitted girls tend to be arrogant and disrespectful towards teachers as they think that since they have babies they are at par with the educators.
The results are that learning and teaching is negatively affected. It is therefore important for all stakeholders, especially parents, to talk to the girl children re-entering school in order to avoid a recurrence.
Parent teacher associations (PTAs) should track down the man responsible for the girl’s pregnancy, just like authorities come down hard on teachers responsible for impregnating  a schoolgirl.
In fact, for teachers, it is instant dismissal for tampering with a ‘government trophy’. The same should be done to outsiders who indulge with school girls and in the end make them pregnant.
In certain unfortunate cases, the perpetrators even go to an extent of either denying the pregnancy or helping the girl to terminate the pregnancy, which may lead to complications and even death. (Zambia Daily Mail July 19, 2013.
Teachers should also be continuously be reminded of the need to accept the re-admitted girls and help them catch up academically with the rest of the class.
Passing negative comments on such girls just adds salt to their wounds since some of them are victims of rape or defilement.
Pupils should also be educated on the need to respect their re-admitted friends and desist from mocking or making fun of them as they would be psychologically affected.
Class teachers should work together for the smooth implementation of re-entry policy in our schools.
The responsible ministry and other stakeholders did a commendable job by coming up with the 1997 Re-entry Policy for the girl-child.
Imagine how many girls would have been thrown onto the streets or into early marriages for in the last 16 years if it hadn’t been for the policy?
Let us all support this progressive policy as it is a very important strategy for enhancing the development of our country.
The author is a Luanshya based historian.