The Wa West Education directorate has expressed worry about increasing teenage pregnancy in the area coupled with the rising numbers in school dropout among girls.
The Wa East District Girl Child Education Coordinator, Rafikata Mohammed said a major challenge in addressing adolescent pregnancy has to do with the gap in the knowledge of the girls on their reproductive health.
Within the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years, a total of seventy-five girls in the Upper West Region dropped out from school.
This year, 13 girls have so far dropped out of school.
These came to light when Madam Mohammed was educating girls on menstrual hygiene at Goripie and Bulenga both in the Wa East District of the Upper West Region.
The Wa East District Girl Child Education Coordinator, Rafikata Mohammed indicated that government needs to recognize its role as a major stakeholder in promoting child-friendly schools that develop both boys and girls and allow them to function to the best of their abilities.
She said “about 17,000 school dropouts are recorded nationwide in the 2018/2019 academic year. This includes boys and girls. Out of the total number of 17,000 school dropouts, girls who dropout due to pregnancies are 600 representing 3.52% of the total dropout number.”
She encouraged the relevant stakeholders in the education sector to ensure that “child friendly schools reflect an environment of good quality characterized by several aspects which include but not limited to respect for diversity and sensitivity on gender.”
Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated across the globe to raise awareness among girls on the need to embrace menstruation as a part of womanhood while encouraging governments to prioritize gender sensitive environments for girls.
As part of the celebration in the Wa East District, the girls held placards that had messages like “Menstruation Is Normal and Healthy,” “Dispose of Your Sanitary Pads in the Latrine in you School, Community or Home” and “If you don’t Bleed you don’t Breed”.
The Upper West Regional Girls Education Officer, Annacleta Viiru encouraged girls to tell parents when they menstruate so that they get the help they need. This is because “it is their parents especially their mothers who will teach them how to dress when they menstruate. If they don’t dress well and they go to school they will be embarrassed and their friends would also make fun of them and this could compel them to drop out of school.”
“Secondly they need to tell their parents because, it is their parents who will provide the necessary support for them to dress properly; for example the [sanitary] pad, it is their parents who will buy it for them.”
The Upper West Gender Desk Officer, Mrs. Charity Banye shared her experience growing up and reminded girls that menstruation is an important part of womanhood. She said as women, they had all gone through the same ‘scary’ and ‘stressful’ first menstruation experience. She encouraged the children to be open and seek advice from their parents of female role models in their neighborhood or their school.
Mrs. Banye urged parents and guardians to be open and encourage children to be able to talk about their sexual health and reproductive system.
Some three hundred girls from 8 schools in the Wa East District were educated on how to use sanitary pads after which they were each given sanitary pads for free.
Story by Mark Smith