In efforts to help learner-mothers cope with social challenges as Namibia battles with surging teenage pregnancy, the Namibian government is providing social skills for young mothers in school.
Marlene Mungunda, National Chapter Coordinator of the Forum for African Women Educationalist in Namibia (FAWENA), says high teenage pregnancy prevents many girls from completing their basic education.
“It is important to educate and guide young girls in order to make right decisions and pursue their dreams. The benefits of educating girls raises maternal health, reduces child mortality, improves nutrition within the home and increases the potential workforce and opportunities for economic growth,” says Mungunda.
Through its “Re-entry Program,” FAWENA encourages teenage mothers to return to school and complete their education by providing scholarship awards, awareness workshops using role models and focal teachers training workshops on the Ministry of Education’s Learner Pregnancy Policy.
Teenage motherhood in Namibia is another serious issue affecting school participation, states the 2016 School Drop-out and Out-of-School Children report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Extremely young mothers and their children are not only at risk physically but are also limited in their ability to pursue educational opportunities,” reads the report.
According to the USAID statistics of 2011, teenage pregnancy rate in Namibia stands at 15 percent among the 15 to 19 year old age group. The UNFPA report showed that more than 46,000 (between 15 and 19) were pregnant in 2013.
Workshop facilitator and media personality, Hilda Basson-Namundjebo said that it is important to accelerate the provision of education for young mother to be able to groom their children, regardless of their age.
“Often at times the learner-mothers find themselves compromised as they may have no supportive system to see through the struggles of motherhood, which limits their potential to excel academically. We therefore need to equip our young mothers with social skills and confidence- and re-affirm that they are valuable,” said Basson-Namundjebo.
Retaining learners in schools is not limited to the central region. A similar workshop was held in the Kharas region, where 101 girls fell pregnant during the 2016 school year alone while 40 girls fell pregnant in the first half of 2017 school year.
Constance Wanternaar, Education inspector of Kalahari circuit in the Kharas region, said that through the workshops, the Ministry want to send out on common message; that falling pregnant once in school should not mean that it’s the end of schooling for such a learner.
“We do not want a single child to be deprived of an opportunity to complete because of a teenage pregnancy. The teenage mothers back in school should serve as a testimony that the Ministry has a policy in place that want to keep learners in school to achieve sustainable development,” she said.