More than 3,000 teenage mothers and pregnant girls from Sierra Leone have registered for a new UNICEF back-to-school programme

The initiative, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, aims to get girls back in education through a combination of personal mentoring and daily two and a half hour lessons in core curriculum studies. Teenage girls in Sierra Leone are shown to rarely return to school after having a baby.

Girls in the country are often not allowed to attend school when pregnant because education officials believe their presence will negatively affect classmates. Stigma, a lack of childcare, and poverty often prevent their return after giving birth.

According to a Sierra Leone government health survey, published in 2013, just 36 per cent of all girls attend secondary school. Teenage pregnancies increased in the nine months schools were closed during the Ebola outbreak.

Megan Lees-McCowan, programme funding manager at the charity Street Child, told Positive News: “There is a common misconception that once a teenage girl becomes a mother, her education is no longer worth the investment. In fact the opposite is true. The benefits of educating mothers are huge, their children are much less likely to die from preventable disease, and more likely to be educated themselves.”

Photo: UNICEF/Kassaye