Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education recently announced that "visibly pregnant" girls will not be allowed in classrooms.
The country's schools are reopening after an eight-month hiatus following an outbreak of Ebola.
Dr. Minkailu Bah - Minister of Education, Science and Technology in Sierra Leone - said that the pregnant girls “would serve as a negative influence to other innocent girls," noted The Voice.
The Conference of Principals, an organization of principals in Sierra Leone, agreed to support the new rule.
Sylvester Meheux, chairman of the Conference of Principals, told RFI:
In our own culture, in the secondary school, they don’t allow girls who are visibly pregnant to go and take exams. We have a belief that it will encourage other girls to do the same thing.
Education is a discipline. In the absence of discipline, learning doesn’t take place. You should also realize that when someone is pregnant, you have some distractions, things that will not make you compose yourself, to take your education seriously.
However, Sabrina Mahtani, of Amnesty International, countered:
Many of these girls have already been very disadvantaged over the last eight months, having been impacted by the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. And there has been a reported increase in sexual violence as well as a reported increase in pressure on girls to engage in transactional sex due to the very harsh economic impacts of Ebola.
Chernor Bah, a Sierra Leone human rights activist, said that statistics from 2008 found that 85 percent of girls between the ages of 15-24 were forced to have sex with a man who was 10 (or more) years older.
The pregnant girls, who are banned, will not be able to take their final exams or graduate.