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As the post-2015 global agenda is beginning to take shape, there are a number of unsettling issues unfolding in the education system among our teenage girls particularly those in the rural areas of Zambia. As the EFA goals of Dakar 2000 shift from increased access to quality education with high learning outcomes, it is not a good sign to see a number of teenage girls drop out of school due to pregnancies. Thirty school girls at Kaoma Secondary School went on maternity leave due to pregnancies. Other figures were reported in other rural districts of Zambia with one district reporting another nineteen cases of school girls going on maternity leave.
Zambia has a re-entry policy which allows such girls to return to school after delivering and nursing the baby for three months at home. The policy is a very good policy as it is giving the girl a chance to continue with education for a better life ahead. Some organisations have equally dismissed claims that the policy is responsible for the escalating school teenage pregnancies.
My main concern is the rising incidence of school drop outs due to falling pregnant, and research shows that not all girls return to school on the basis of the re-entry policy as many of them feel shy and stigmatized while others get into marriages as an easy escape from poverty. Therefore the full benefits of the re-entry policy and the EFA Goals of retaining enrolled pupils are being dragged backwards while the world is on fast track with the Post-2015 Agenda. This trend is punching so many holes in the MDGs’ aim to increase gender parity as more girls are seemingly dropping out of school due to pregnancies.
This therefore calls for a critical examination of the whole education process in as far as life skills are concerned. There seems to be a gap between learning outcomes in the academic sense and life skills acquired in the process of learning. Zambia’s learning outcomes still show a very low rate in terms of literacy and numeracy and most learners are not adequately prepared for tertiary education, let alone the job market. Education seems to be polarized in this respect because more focus has gone to the academic part of the process and little or no deliverables are invested in the life skills component. Thus the pupils who are economically disadvantaged are not incentivised to remain in school and focus on learning for the future.
Girls’ clubs like the Girl Guides and young adolescent clubs that focus on life skills, girl issues, personal skills development and emotional support need to be resuscitated as was in the past. These can be coordinated by female teachers and staff from the Social Welfare department as matrons. This may help find solutions to this rising problem of teenage school pregnancies and dropouts as we move forward with the rest of the global community into ‘Education Post-2015’.
Etambuyu Katundu is director of training and skills development at Baruthi Education Care & Support Network. Follow her on twitter handle @etambuyuk and see her work at http://www.baruthinetwork.org

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Human capital development starts by investing in human beings, and that is why I have a passion for early childhood education and development as well as the subsequent levels of education like primary and secondary education. I have a passion to see those marginalised individuals beam with smiles as they give a sigh for overcoming all the barriers that made education inaccessible.

I desire to see all children claim and realise their right to quality education. I desire to see all individuals excluded from schools due to their disabilities, claim back their rightful positions in an inclusive education environment!

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