Why it’s important to have day care facilities for teen mothers
The proportion of teenage girls who are mothers or who are currently pregnant in Sub-Saharan African countries is staggering.
Studies on teenage pregnancies and other side effects such as unsafe abortions, contraceptive use as well as maternal and infant mortality remain high but with little consideration being given to the girl after successfully delivery of her baby.
Research has shown that the leading cause of school dropout in many communities among girls is adolescent pregnancies as the young mothers find it hard to handle the stress of school and taking care of an infant.
Unprotected sex still an issue
The debate over comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) has not helped either because of the strong opposition exhibited by among others religious leaders. Nobody wants to talk about protection for girls who are already engaging in sex for not only preventing pregnancies but also sexually transmitted diseases.
Increased teenage pregnancies among school girls necessitates the need of having day-care facilities in public schools to enable the survivors have a chance to continue with their studies without having to dropout on the grounds of taking care of their new-born.
Having day-care facility in schools may sound absurd and absolutely costly to the parents, school administration and the community at large. However, the main agenda is to help the teenage mother stay in school after child birth, enable her finish her education and possibly graduate without having to stay home and take care of the child.
The Ministry of Education has a policy that says a girl who gets pregnant while in school is supposed to come back and continue her education to completion immediately after giving birth.
Putting mechanisms in place
A day-care in public schools could help solve many issues and appears to be the right mechanism to resolve the soaring number of school dropout cases among teenage mothers.
Proponents of the day-care programmes say these facilities will prevent teenage girls from leaving school to assume the role of babysitting, with the added advantage of offering early child hood development. However, critics of the programme are of the view that it’s a platform that could see an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies.
Having day-care facilities in schools is expensive because caregivers will be needed to take care of the babies when the girls are in school. However, it has the advantage of boosting a girl’s self-esteem by making her have a sense of confidence and peace of mind knowing that she is still able to attend classes and have her child taken care of without worrying about baby sitter.
Above all this is the most suitable and apt step to curb the trend of school dropout and in turn it also helps empower the girl child academically.
It is also relevant to note that the facilities apart from reducing dropout rates among teenage mothers, it will help ease socio-economic problems in the communities that are brought about by unemployment and over dependence and low paying jobs by girls who did not complete their education.
The flip side
Despite the fact that some community leaders and individuals observing the initiative say it will encourage irresponsible behaviour among teenagers, other major stakeholders should be on the frontline in advocating for and encouraging these facilities especially in areas with a high rate teenage pregnancies and school dropouts.
Initially they may seem to be exerting an extra financial burden on the parents in terms of paying for school fees and the day-care but in the long run, if the girl is able to complete, especially her secondary education, she stands a better chance of going to university or getting a training a good earning job.
Dropping out of school as a teenager is a recipe to the girl having more children than she can take care of and also standing a very high chance of remaining unemployed.
Notable arguments have come on board that instead of having day-care facilities in schools, teenagers should be provided with information on abstinence and pregnancy prevention.
This is, however, a measure that has not gone well with parents, school administrators and even religious leaders whenever introducing sexual reproductive health topic in schools arises. They are always fronting the notion that it is a topic that is irreverent to school going children.
For instance, introducing condoms to 13 year olds and use of contraceptives among adolescents who are sexually active could help deal with the harsh reality of teenage pregnancies that is on the rise.
It must be noted that many teens opt to drop out of school when they can’t handle the stress of education and managing an infant.
Having day-care in schools will ensure that the girl child has a better and brighter future for herself and her child.
Schools should then provide sex education programmes to young people in high and primary schools to ensure that when adolescents engage in sex, they will be doing so from an informed position.