The International Child Development Programme (ICDP), an NGO, has urged government to explore alternative sources of funding to sustain the implementation of the re-entry policy for pregnant girls and mothers into schools.
Madam Joyce Larnyoh, the Country Director, ICDP, said the policy was largely funded by foreign donors, urging government to undertake a risk assessment to determine the implications on future budgets to avoid collapse of the programme.
The move, she said was critical because there had been a decline in donor funding over the last four years due to donor fatigue and cut-back on donor funding because of Ghana’s status as a lower middle-income country.
Madam Larnyoh said this at a review of Ghana Education Service’s Back to School Campaign and the Re-entry Policy in Accra, on Wednesday.
The programme was organised by African Education Watch, a policy research and advocacy organisation, in collaboration with Star Ghana Foundation and other Civil Society Organisations.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) in 2018 developed a guideline for prevention of pregnancy among schoolgirls and facilitated the re-entry into school after childbirth.
The policy prohibits headteachers’ expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls from public and private schools and outlines steps that school authorities must follow in handling schoolgirl pregnancy to facilitate their re-entry after childbirth.
The policy helps pregnant schoolgirls to go for maternity leave lasting three months, approximately six weeks before and after delivery and resume school immediately after the maternity leave.
The Country Director said analysis by the Organisation revealed that the policy was given low priority in terms of budgetary allocation, adding that budget from 2018 to 2021 was Ghc 34143.0, which she described as woefully inadequate.
Statistics revealed that child protection share of Gross Domestic Product is 0.03 per cent in 2016 and 0.06 per cent in 2020.
She urged government to increase allocation to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection on child protection, especially girls’ enrolment and the re-entry policy, considering worrying statistics of teenage pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Madam Larnyoh said budgetary allocations to Ministries, Department and Agencies were largely spent on prevention than responsiveness, calling for more support in creating the necessary environment for pregnant girls to return to school.
She called for proper coordinated system of spending on the girl re-entry policy because spending across the respective sectors were fragmented, making it difficult to monitor or predict adequacy of spending.
She called for a decentralised, harmonised financing mechanisms for coordinating the re-entry campaign involving multi-sectoral agencies such as religious bodies, traditional authorities and gender desk officers.
Mr Kofi Asare, the Executive Director, Africa Education Watch, urged the GES to identify and engage all relevant stakeholders to ensure collaboration and synergies in strategy and resources for the policy.
Currently, about 70 per cent of school drop out among girls is caused by teenage pregnancy.
The Ghana Health Service reports that 109,865 teenage pregnancies occur in 2020 and over 500,000 cases recorded from 2016 to 2021.
The GES reported that 70 per cent of pre-tertiary pregnancies occur at the Junior High School with an average of in-school rate of 7000 a year.
Mrs Akua Dufie Winful, Education Officer, Accra Metro, Ghana Education Service, said the policy had made strides where some pregnant girls had returned to school, calling for support for proper integration devoid of stigmatisation.
Madam Abena Adubea Amoah, the Executive Director, Planed Parenthood Association of Ghana, said the Association had over the years provided education on sexual and reproductive health issues for young girls to become confident and build values about their bodies.
Madam She-Vera Anzagira, Regional Manager, ActionAid Ghana, said their intervention had led to sending 250 pregnant girls back to school with some completing Senior High School.