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International aid agency Concern Worldwide has welcomed Sierra Leone’s decision to overrule a ban on pregnant girls attending school.
Reversing the restriction in a country where there is still a stigma regarding teenage pregnancy will prove to be a massive benefit to society, according to Concern Worldwide's Senior Education Advisor Amy Folan.
"This move will give all girls an opportunity to develop and prove that having a child will not end their lives and their opportunities. It’s such a significant step forward for Sierra Leone and a very brave thing for the government to be prioritising,” she said.
“If pregnant girls can still access school, they can still benefit from all the possibilities obtainable with a good education and there are so many benefits. Not just for the girls themselves, but for society overall."
The restriction came into force in 2015 as schools reopened after the Ebola crisis, which led to a reported increase in teenage pregnancies. Concern and several other humanitarian organisations and international governments, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), lobbied for the removal of the discriminatory law.
In 2015, Concern also called on the government of Sierra Leone to allow pregnant girls to have equal access to education by putting certain provisions in place. These included strengthening reporting, referral and support systems in schools and communities so that pregnant girls and adolescent mothers could receive the physical and emotional care they needed, as well as the means to report acts of violence against them. It also stated that both boys and girls should be provided with comprehensive and consistent HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health education.
Speaking last week, Sierra Leone’s newly appointed Education Minister David Moinina Sengeh said a new policy on school attendance will be inclusive of all people. Meanwhile, the government has closed schools this week across the country in a bid to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
Notes to editors
Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organisation determined to end hunger and extreme poverty, whatever it takes. It delivers life-saving and life-changing interventions to some of the world’s poorest communities. www.concern.org.uk