Policy for school-aged mothers to be reviewed by next month
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE review of the Education Regulations (1980) by the National Council on Education (NCE) in support of Government's national policy for the re-integration of school-aged mothers into the formal school system is to be completed by the end of March.
The policy making it mandatory for schools to readmit or admit teenage mothers after they have given birth came into effect last November following much agitation by Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith who, in February of that year, tabled a motion in the Senate calling for an amendment to the Education Act Regulations which stipulated that a girl should leave school during her pregnancy. Although the Ministry of Education has the discretion to facilitate their re-entry to the formal school system, the practice had been for many schools to refuse to readmit or admit adolescent mothers.
On Friday, Leader of Government Business in the Upper House Senator AJ Nicholson tabled answers from the Ministry of Education to follow-up questions posed by Senator Johnson-Smith on the matter.
The ministry in response to queries from Senator Johnson-Smith as to whether it had drafted amendments to sections 27 and 31 of the Education Regulations in support of the policy said the NCE commenced review of the Education Code in December 2013 with a stakeholder briefing.
"Public invitation for submissions was published in the print media in January this year with the deadline for submissions being the end of that month. The Steering Committee has held some three meetings to date with the Code being revised in sections. It is anticipated that the review will conclude on March 31, 2014," the ministry said.
In the meantime, it said since Cabinet gave its approval last year, 5,000 copies of the policy document have been printed and distribution begun while regional directors have advised schools about the policy and their responsibilities under it.
In addition the ministry said "school-aged mothers have been accepted in schools for the 2013/2014 school year".
Another 1,000 copies are being printed for issuing to ministries, departments, agencies, faith-based organisations, public libraries and libraries of tertiary educational institutions, non-governmental organisations and international development partners. It said full distribution will be done by March 7 this year.
As to whether any recommendations had been made to the ministry in relation to counselling or other interventions for school-aged teen fathers the ministry said it continues to provide counselling as necessary through the Guidance and Counselling Unit and its six regional offices in collaboration with the Women Centre Foundation and other relevant agencies. It said the Guidance and Counselling Unit will also be implementing a Student Support Network that includes psycho-social support services to all students including school-aged fathers. Assistance to these students will be accessed through the Guidance and Counselling Programme. The education ministry added that moderate to severe cases will be referred to other state and non-state agencies or to contracted service providers.