FREETOWN, March 3 (Xinhua) — Over 5,000 school girls, who were pregnant during the 18-month-long Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, have now been placed into both primary and secondary schools nationwide, an official has said.
“All the girls have been properly placed now, and by their performance, I am pleased to report that it has been outstanding and over our expectation,” Brima Turay, Deputy Director of Communication from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, told Xinhua Thursday.
“The government is responsible for their fees for the next two years while the ministry is mapping out a project with donor agencies for a more sustainable programs for the girls,” he said.
“These will include the expansion of some 377 schools that are currently congested so that by 2017, every classroom will accommodate not more than 45 students. A school feeding program will also be introduced,” he added.
However, there are mixed reactions from those pregnant girls who are now readmitted into normal schools.
“It’s good to be in the classroom setting after so much hue and cry over our predicament,” 13-year-old Sallimatu who was reached by phone in Bo, Sierra Leone’s second largest city, told Xinhua.
“We plead for another chance to show that we can still be reengage in our studies and contribute to the country’s development,” she added.
Another girl called Janet in Freetown, who got pregnant at the age of 11, said however that she is “done with schooling, and fears going back to be harassed by friend and foe alike.”
“I’d rather nurse my year-old baby and look up to what life can do for me,” she said.
Allowing pregnant girls into mainstream educational institutions became a thorny issue in April 2, 2015 when the education ministry issued a statement banning pregnant girls from classrooms as a move to protect non-pregnant girls from negative influences.
The government then set up some 710 remedial centers to provide temporary alternative classes where all pregnant girls who opted to continue their schooling were tuitioned in basic core subjects.
“These girls were basically idle during this period as they were not going to school. They fell victim to men who have money or boys living near their homes,” said Solomon Sogbandi, Sierra Leone’s representative for global NGO Amnesty International.
The move later backed down after many human rights organizations accused the government of “violating” the human rights of the girls.