When a teenager in a rural community gets pregnant while in school, one of the commonest outcomes would be the end of her educational journey, and to a larger extent, a denial of her right to education.
The situation even becomes precarious when that teenager is suffering from hearing impairment and fails to name the man who impregnated her under bizarre circumstances.
That was the hapless ordeal of two hearing impaired teenagers at Agona Nkum in the Central Region, who have been enrolled into vocational training at the Give to Eat Mission, Ghana’s Teenage Mothers’ Home (the first mothers’ home for teenagers in the country), located at Agona Nkum.
Yaa, 18, and Vida, 22 (real first names) both got pregnant while in school (names of schools withheld) three years ago but failed to name the men who got them pregnant.
Unfortunately, the men who were believed to have taken advantage of their inability to speak did not show up to own the pregnancy and all efforts by the families of the victims to trace their whereabouts proved futile.
The two teenagers quit school under the circumstance, but with the help of the Give to Eat Ghana, they were catered for until they delivered successfully.
Yaa and Vida are among 15 teenage mothers that have been admitted at the Teenage Mothers Home together with their children since its establishment last year.
Some of the teenage mothers (whose identities cannot be disclosed) at the Home are victims of rape who got pregnant as a result and had been abandoned by their families.
While the mothers have been enrolled into vocational training of their choice after delivery, their children are being catered for and taught by teachers at the Home, where three classrooms have been earmarked for Crèche, Kindergarten, and Preschool lessons.
Often, these teenage mothers are compelled to quit school to cater for themselves and their babies, and in some cases, they abandon the babies to their fate due to their inability to cater for them.
Teenage pregnancy is prevalent in the Central Region. In 2020, the Region recorded a total of 10,301 teenage pregnancies, data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicates.
The Ministry of Health recorded 555,575 teenage pregnancies between 2016 and 2020, with 109,865 teenage pregnancies in 2020 alone.
According to the Africa Education Watch, currently, there are more than 192,500 school dropouts in Ghana, with over 102,000 being girls. Up to 30 per cent of school dropouts occurring among girls is attributed to teenage pregnancy “emanating from social and economic factors.”
In an interview, Reverend Dr Kingsley Arthur, President, Give To Eat, Ghana, said the NGO was concerned about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the Central Region and the challenges faced by teenage mothers, hence, the establishment of the Home to safeguard the rights of the mothers and their children.
He said it cost the NGO GH¢1 million to establish the Teenage Mothers Home and a Vocational Centre as part of a broader programme to ensure teenage mothers and their children were not denied their rights to education, training, and a dignified life.
Rev. Arthur said the NGO had in the last one year rescued a total of 15 teenage mothers together with 21 children, who are currently been housed at the Home.
“Many of these children have been given away by their parents and after a while they become pregnant with no fathers and the most serious of these cases are those that have been raped. We have a number of girls that have been raped and there are no fathers for the children.
“These girls without our intervention, have no chance whatsoever in the future. The vision is that the mothers of the teenage mothers will either go back to school, start a trade or some kind of vocational training whiles their children are catered for in the home,” he said.
Rev. Arthur said some of the teenage mothers who were hitherto rejected by their relatives have been reintegrated with their families, adding that the NGO was also working with the Department of Social Welfare to raise foster parents to cater for their children in their absence.
Article 25 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states that all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities. Article 27 (3) states that women shall be guaranteed equal rights to training without any impediments.
Unlike teenage fathers who are able to complete school and pursue their careers, thousands of teenage mothers in different parts of the country are handicapped and lack opportunities to guarantee their personal development and that of their children.
The Give to Eat’s Teenage Mothers Home has offered renewed hope for teenage mothers in Nkum and its surrounding villages.
Perhaps, this methodology could be adopted at the national level as an alternative approach to ensure that teenage mothers who are unable to continue their education acquired employable skills to put them in a better position to offer their children the best of care.
There should be a concerted effort to ensure that an expectant or parenting young family has the resources and support necessary to complete school and, in an event, where they are compelled to drop, vocational training and other options should be made available to that population.