Yesha Callahan

Pregnant Girls Barred From School in Sierra Leone

rsz_school_photo_william_vest-lillesoe_ibis-2Sierra Leone’s Education Minister Minkailu Bah  made a devastating announcement that impacts the education of girls in the country. Bah has stated that girls who are visibly pregnant will not be allowed to go to school. Apparently the ‘unspoken’ rule was always in play, but now it’s official and people aren’t too pleased.

“Many of these girls have already been very disadvantaged over the last eight months, having been impacted by the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. And there has been a reported increase in sexual violence as well as a reported increase in pressure on girls to engage in transactional sex due to the very harsh economic impacts of Ebola,” says Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

“This is not a favour [to pregnant girls], this is a fundamental human right to education. And these girls have a right not to be discriminated against, and also have a right not to be stigmatised just because they’re girls,” she adds.

As many students have returned to school because of the Ebola outbreak, education officials are standing in support of the new ruling.

“In our own culture, in the secondary school, they don’t allow girls who are visibly pregnant to go and take exams. We have a belief that it will encourage other girls to do the same thing,” says Sylvester Meheux, the chairman of the Conference of Principals. “Others will copy that example, and we’ll have a lot of them [pregnant girls] in our school system,” he adds.

“Education is a discipline. In the absence of discipline, learning doesn’t take place. You should also realise that when someone is pregnant, you have some distractions, things that will not make you compose yourself, to take your education seriously,” he says.

The country is now trying to figure out how to provide an education for pregnant girls, but some feel they’re not doing enough work.

Roeland Monasch, UNICEF’s representative in Sierra Leone, has issues with how the country is handling pregnant students.

“Nearly half of all girls are pregnant or a mother while they’re a child themselves, so before they reach the age of 18,” Monash stated.

“They don’t have the structures to do that, they don’t have the infrastructure to do that, it’s a violation of human rights. It’s very sad. It’s very painful because we’re seeing a visible number of pregnant girls in the country today. And we know why this is,” he says.

Photo Credit:

Photo credit: William Vest-Lillesoe/IBIS


  1. March 30, 2015 - Reply

    Somebody call Frieda Pinto!

  2. March 31, 2015 - Reply

    Certainly, this is the wrong policy in Siera Leone. Education is a great human right that must be protection. This is discrimination and this should change. Pregnant women have every right to get a quality, excellent education anywhere on the planet Earth.

    • March 31, 2015 - Reply

      I have mixed feelings about this. My parents were born and raised there and can verify that out of wedlock pregnancy is frowned upon in school. On one hand I understand that they do not want girls to think that’s it’s ok to turn up pregnant while young and unmarried. However if they don’t factor in the violation of rape or hold the male that got her pregnant accountable then that’s some bull. I understand the desire to not want to encourage some baby mama epidemic, but to be denied an education it’s not right either.

      • March 31, 2015 - Reply

        @Ms. Vee

        Sierra Leone can create specific accommodations to assist pregnant women. In that sense, the stigma can be gone while the pregnant women’s right to education can be respected. I understand your points. Teenage pregnancy rates in the black community has declined. Regardless of how we view teenage pregnancy (which is out of wedlock), we should never stigmatize these young girls unfairly. To outright deny them an education (without even executing some services or specific accommodations) is outright reactionary.

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