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Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, Elaine Foster Allen, says that focus will be placed on prevention in reducing teen pregnancies in Jamaica.

She said that the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) programme will be bolstered to reflect this focus, with a strong prevention message that seeks to identify and address the factors contributing to teen pregnancy.

“It is important that the message is about prevention rather than cure, and that is why we need to strengthen the HFLE programme. We have to make it common sense not to get pregnant as a teenager,” she stated.

She was addressing a meeting at the Ministry on Wednesday, June 26, with the visiting delegation from Burkina Faso, held by the First Lady of the West African country, Her Excellency Chantal Compaoré.

The strengthening of the HFLE programme, is one of several strategies being undertaken by the administration as part of its National Policy on Reintegrating School-aged Mothers into the Formal School System. The policy, which becomes effective September this year,aims to ensure that all adolescent mothers are able to complete their formal education.

The HFLE aims to mentally and physically prepare the nation’s youth for various changes and challenges they may experience on the journey to adulthood. The programme seeks to aid students in developing the skills required to make healthy life choices and to maintain the behaviours that make for their good health and support a better society.

[RELATED: Jamaica Makes Significant Progress in Reducing Fertility Rate]

Prevention messages will be integrated in school-based and national Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) and HFLE programmes. Men and boys, who father the children of student mothers, will also be targeted through the programmes of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) and their ongoing partnerships with the security and justice sectors.

The Permanent Secretary noted that due to the intervention programmes of the Government, the percentage of girls, who fall out of the education system due to pregnancy, has been reducing over time, noting that the number “not that significant”.

According to statistics from the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), approximately 3,000 girls, 17 years and under, account for 18 per cent of all live births per year.

“We have about 45,000 children in (the) age cohort and you are talking about less than five per cent of our girls, who end up pregnant. That is nothing to be happy about; we would prefer that none of our girls got pregnant,” Ms. Foster Allen stated.

“The important thing for the Ministry of Education in terms of boys and girls, who are at school, is that we must press home the issues around health and family life education. But we also have to spread that message to the society at large because many of the problems start out in the society and there is a general acceptance of some of these things,” she stated.

Under the policy, it will be mandatory for all school-aged mothers to be reintegrated into the formal school system. Other key elements of the policy include: automatic referral of all pregnant girls to the WCJF; and monitoring of adolescent mothers to ensure they complete their education.

The meeting included Burkina Faso’s Minister of Women Promotion and Gender, Nestorine Sangare; the country’s non-resident Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Daniel Ouedraogo; and officials from the Office of the Prime Minister and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is spearheading the initiative.

[RELATED: First Lady of Burkina Faso Hails Efforts to Protect Women and Girls]

Mrs. Compaoré and Minister Sangare have both lauded the Jamaican Government on its strategies that have been implemented to cater to, prevent, and support adolescent girls who may become pregnant.

The First Lady, who departs the island on Saturday, June 29, has also voiced her intent to adopt and replicate some of the strategies in her homeland, since Jamaica has had a successful programme over the years.

In Burkina Faso, recent studies show that adolescent girls and young women are the first victims of unwanted pregnancies and illegal/unsafe abortions, along with all the risks and consequences they cause.

Jamaica is supported by the UNFPA to protect and promote the rights of adolescents and young people towards responsible sexuality and access to high quality reproduction health services.

Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards

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