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Keeping girls in school, and overcoming the barriers

Keeping girls in school, and overcoming the barriers
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach
With one of the world’s highest rates of adolescent pregnancies, Mozambique struggles with the very important task of keeping girls in school.

One of the first things Loveness mentions is how she has always loved going to school. She reiterates how important it is to learn, and shares her dream of becoming a nurse. Close to her chest, her 3-month-old daughter sleeps calmly. Loveness looks down to her. "Felicia will become a teacher one day," she proclaims, smiling.

Loveness is one of many girls in Mozambique who got pregnant at an early age, and subsequently dropped out of school. The country has one of the worlds' highest rates of adolescent fertility, and with 179 births per 1,000 girls (aged 15-19), teen pregnancies constitute one of the biggest obstacles to girls' continued education.

"When my belly started to grow, I felt like I could not be in the same classroom as my friends anymore. Despite everybody telling me that I should continue, I was ashamed of the state I had put myself into." Loveness explains.

Her parents escaped to Zimbabwe during the war in Mozambique, and Loveness was born and raised on the other side of the border until four years ago, when her parents decided to return. They moved to the little town of Changara (Tete province), where Loveness started Grade 4 at the primary school, EPC Changara Sede School. Loveness was only in Grade 6 when she became pregnant, and she tried to hide it from her teachers and friends.

"I noticed that something was changing about her, and it took a while before I realized that she probably was pregnant. She would not tell me, she even avoided me. And then one day she suddenly stopped coming to class," Tezinho Njanje, Loveness' teacher, recalls.

Loveness did not see any other option than to drop out. Her parents and the baby's father kept insisting that she go back and study for her future, but she felt ashamed and did not believe she could be a good student when she had just become a mother.

Tezinho Njanje is one of the teachers at EPC Changara Sede who has taken part in the School Council and teacher training offered through the Child-Friendly Schools initiative. The School Council consists of teachers, parents and representatives from the community. "We meet and consult, often about issues such as teen pregnancy and school drop-outs, and when there is a problem, the School Council tries to talk to the family. In the teacher training, I learned not only how to identify different health conditions and try new teaching methods, but also about the importance of supporting all children's right to education." he says.





Child-Friendly Schools: Stories from Mozambique

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