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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Columnist: Arhin, Albert A.

Should pregnant women in teacher training schools be suspended?

Building a better Ghana: Should pregnant women in teacher training schools be suspended?

Introduction Should pregnant women in teacher training schools—mostly adults—really be disallowed to write (final) exams or even suspended from schools? This was my first reaction after reading the media report which stated that the principal of the Saint Monica’s College of Education in Asante Mampong has strongly justified why some pregnant teacher trainees in her college should be disallowed to write their final exams (See Joynews on 17/6/2013).

This story actually reminded me of an experience of a close family member and other youth I have had the opportunity to interact with as part of my professional work. The fact is there are several other students numbering more than 100 who suffer this fate across the 38 public Colleges of Education (CoEs) (formerly teacher training colleges) on annual basis. The question is: should these students really be disallowed to write exams or even suspended from schools? Is whatever law that is being enforced not outdated/outmoded? Are we not by this law sowing the seed for a bleak future for the pregnant woman and the baby? I will simply argue that this law should be reformed, or even struck out completely from the GES regulations.

Suspension, dismissals and the indiscipline argument: Are we not getting it wrong?

According to the said media report, the main reasons why students are suspended are to ensure discipline and also to allow such students to receive proper ante-natal care while at home. These may be genuine reasons as far as achieving the goals of education are concerned. But should there be a block application of this regulation instead of a case by case treatment? Yes, pregnant women need better healthcare but will special consideration for them to go home to attend their ante-natal care not be a better option rather than suspending them? Why then do the schools have ‘exeats’ which allow students to visit home for some special reasons?

More often than not, these pregnant women are actually suspended on the grounds of indiscipline—so as to deter other students from becoming pregnant. Nobody is against punitive or reformative measures taken by school authorities to instil discipline. But what has indiscipline gotten to do with a married woman who is pregnant? In the case of the family member mentioned above, she was suspended with only two weeks of the academic year remaining—where antenatal attendance will not be a problem for her. Why should GES and the school authorities suspend a married woman—whose wedding is witnessed by the authorities—from the school on the grounds of enforcing regulations on indiscipline? Does the GES realise that many of the students are adults—some lawfully married who are entitled to the ‘right of pregnancy’?

Are we not sowing the seed for a bleak future for the pregnant woman and the baby?

I have in many instances interacted with many people whose current ‘not-too-desirable’ economic situation is traced to their being sacked/suspended from school—normally SSS or CoE. For those in SSS, suspension (not dismissal) may be a better option due to their minor status but not so with an adult student in a tertiary educational institution.

I have had cause to believe that in many instances, we do more harm than good by suspending/sacking students on the grounds of pregnancy. Adding to the ostracism associated with ‘students’ pregnancy’ these laws thwart the dreams and ambitions of many young girls—and sow the seed for bleak future for their generations. The thought of ‘wasted term/year’ get many women worried and grievous—which affect the foetus. Some do abortions and end up losing their lives. Others are unable to return to formal education again due to various reasons chiefly financial. The one-year break sometimes affects the ‘sharpness of the mind’ which can make some students struggle even after returning to school. But all these might have been avoided if final year students who have few weeks left—and duly registered for exams—are suspended and disallowed from writing the same exams they have registered for.

I had a friend at the University level who gave birth in the middle of an examination period and actually scored more ‘As’ that year than all the years she has spent in the school. Pregnancy does not always make women lazy. Some become more serious with their academics---and that is why I argue that this law/regulation needs to be considered on case by case basis rather than block application—or even scrap it from training colleges.

Reform this law! GES and Ministry of Education I am no way by this article promoting indiscipline or encouraging pregnancy among students; but if we take the broader picture, this law largely does more harm than good especially for final year students in the teacher training colleges. With all its intent and purpose, this GES regulation/law/rules which grant principals of CoEs the authority to dismiss/suspend/disallow/expel etc students on the grounds of pregnancy is very much outdated and has over lived its usefulness. It needs to be reformed to meet current dynamics. At worst, it needs to be applied on case by case basis rather than as a block rule. If even JSS and SSS candidates are now allowed to write BECE and SSSCE, how much more are tertiary students who are largely adults? Professor Naana Opoku and Mr. Sam Okudgeto, please act on this in the interests of a better Ghana. Thank you!

…………………………………………………. Albert A. Arhin Dept of Geography University of Cambridge United Kingdom E: