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Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Education has launched the much anticipated national policy for the reintegration of school aged mothers.
  • The document sets out clear guidelines to ensure that teen mothers are not denied the opportunity to continue their education.
  • The policy will be part of the guideline and mandate given to all school Boards, principals, and teachers.

The Ministry of Education has launched the much anticipated national policy for the reintegration of school aged mothers into the formal school system.

The document sets out clear guidelines to ensure that teen mothers are not denied the opportunity to re-enter the formal school system, to continue their education.

Production of the policy document was supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with a number of stakeholders, including the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education; the Association of Principals and Vice Principals, among others.

Implementation of the policy will include the participation of a number of agencies, such as the Children’s Registry and the Women’s Centre Foundation of Jamaica.

Speaking at the launch at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on November 14, Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said the policy will be part of the guideline and mandate given to all school Boards, principals, and teachers.

“This is not optional. This is Government policy,” he stated, adding that the implementation of the policy will be backed by a wholesome and comprehensive campaign about sexuality among teenagers.

“The message isn’t one of just repression; the message is a very encouraging one. We need to get the message across that premature sex is the thief of true love,” he emphasised.

Bemoaning the breakdown of traditional family values, the Minister pointed out that a sense of looseness  has crept into the culture in terms of what love means and  what intimacy can bring. “We are failing to recognize the kind of influences that make vulnerable young people prone to the situation that we now have to curb,” he said.

Rev. Thwaites explained that the policy addresses decades of prejudice and discrimination meted out to teenage mothers, and argued that the society should be guided towards a different path, instead of treating these students like second class citizens, resulting in permanent rejection from the school system and undermining their long term education.

“Our response should be the converse…unplanned teenage motherhood is a compelling reason for a teenager to complete her formal education, so that she is capable to fend for herself and her child,” he said.

Rev. Thwaites emphasized that the young men must also be engaged, and that a policy for participation in their child’s life is now a major priority.

The Minister noted that the policy will make a significant difference to teenaged mothers, their children, and the society.

“Our major task now is to ensure that we fill the gap of those many girls who drop out of school for pregnancy, but don’t end up in the Women’s Centre…those are the ones we have to get to, by advancing this policy publicly, and making it clear that there is no shame in taking the steps that are necessary,” he said.

Rev. Thwaites pointed out that the effort will require inter-ministerial collaboration between the Ministries of Education and Health, along with the relevant agencies.

Meanwhile, Opposition Senator, Kamina Johnson, lauded the policy, and emphasized that implementation is key.

“There will have to be a great sensitivity to the moral conundrum that this issue poses for school administrators and teachers. It will take some time, perhaps, for the issue to be adjusted in their minds,” she said.

Ms. Johnson argued that it will test administrative and leadership skills. “It will be important for detractors of the policy to open their minds to the broader developmental imperatives that this policy is geared at. Detractors should be encouraged to understand that the policy does not seek to promote adolescent pregnancy – ultimately it seeks to make a serious dent in intergenerational poverty,” she added.