I’m angry – about schools that expel teenage students who get pregnant. Access to education is a necessity for every child, and a young woman in this situation has an even greater need for education as she is about to become a parent and teacher to her own child. A pregnant teenager needs a supportive learning environment – not to have the doors of that learning environment slammed in her face. Way to violate basic human rights Samoa…
Samoa prides itself on being a Christian country “founded on God.” I fail to see where Christian principles of love, compassion and “judge not that thou be not judged…” – fit into a school’s morally indignant stance as they argue that a pregnant student “sets a bad example to the others…and we cannot condone her choices blah blah.” Yes – because allowing a pregnant girl to waddle among you so that the other students can see up close just how fun it is to grow a baby AND try to study AND (most probably) endure the gossipy, cruel and snide treatment of many…is really going to make all the other teenagers want to run out and have wild, wicked sex IMMEDIATELY.
And yes, because none of you school administrators or teachers have ever engaged in “reckless” or “morally questionable” behaviour before, and now know how important it is to have compassionate, supportive people around you to help you move forward and deal with the consequences of your choices.
And lets not forget that thanks to the disgustingly high rate of sexual abuse, incest and rape in this country – its a very real possibility that the pregnant teenager you’re punishing, didnt have a choice in how that baby got there in the first place.
If it was consensual sex, then I wonder- are these schools kicking out the boys who also chose to have sex? If one of their male students is the father of the pregnant teen’s baby – does he get expelled too? Not that it would make any of this less reprehensible – nobody should have their access to education denied because they made a baby.
And lets be clear – thats why the pregnant student is being punished. Not because she broke school rules on ‘having a boyfriend’ or because she violated some moral code of conduct by having sex. Its purely because she has made a baby (with 50% contributing participation from someone else.) I’ve been a teacher in Samoan high schools and I know there are many young people choosing to have sex. (Not at school and not in front of everyone, thankfully…but theyre doing it.) Those students are not getting expelled. They still get to have an education. Schools arent branding them with a scarlet letter and casting them out. No, its not sex that gets you expelled. Its pregnancy.
Which makes this a woman’s rights issue. And a developmental planning issue. And a national educational goals issue. Not to mention, a contraceptives-access issue and a reminder of how important good sexual health education is; in our schools, churches, villages and families.
MESC (the government ministry responsible for education in Samoa) needs to formulate a clear policy that addresses the issue of students getting pregnant. It should be illegal for any school to refuse access to a pregnant teenager. Not only that, it should outline strategies for schools on how they can be a strong support system for young mothers so as to best ensure they stay in school throughout a pregnancy and then complete their education once they have a child. I had my first child at a young age when i was at university – so I know how hard it can be to have a baby AND go to school. But it can be done, WITH the support of school admin and staff, friends and family.
All of us know a young woman who got pregnant a whole lot sooner and earlier than she planned – and tough choices had to be made about school. Maybe she’s a friend, a cousin, a sister, a daughter. Maybe that young woman is you. All of us know its not an easy road but there’s a lot we can do to support, empower and uplift each other. Denying a woman equal access to education because she’s pregnant is discrimination, pure and simple.
We can do better than this Samoa. We have to.