Phillipa Mukome Chinhoi Correspondent
Early pregnancies and living school at an early stage are worrisome issues countrywide because they destroy the future of both the girl and the boy child.The effects are negative, hence, there is need to educate and introduce policies that will help both sexes in decisions on sex.
Young mothers who are less likely to finish school will remain poor because they will be relying on assistance and in the end get poor jobs, which will not be able to sustain them and their children.Policies are principles, rules and guidelines formulated by a government to reach long-term goals. These are objectives that Government seeks to archive and preserve the national interest. Examples of policies are health policy, education policy, public policy, corporate policy, security policy and economic policy. These are formulated and enforced by the Government to mitigate or solve some issues.
School health programmes play an important role in providing information on health. A sound school health programme helps bring up conscious citizens who appreciate health as a capital benefit, policies are also an efficient means to prevent or reduce risk behaviours.
WHO (2011) regards school health programmes and policies as a means of preventing serious health problems among students. According to Action AID (2012) priority behaviours that affect health and learning should be taught under health education in order to minimise risk behaviours that lead to infectious diseases and unwanted outcomes. School health programmes and policies maybe one of the most efficient means to prevent or reduce risk behaviours and prevent serious health problems among students. (WHO 2011)
The health risk facing young people if not attended to becomes a serious social problem in communities. UNICEF (October 2019) states that adolescence is a vulnerable phase in human development as it represents a transition from childhood to physical and psychological maturity. During this period, adolescents learn and develop knowledge and skills to deal with critical aspects of their health and development while their bodies mature.
Adolescent girls, especially younger girls, are particularly vulnerable because they face the risks of premature pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal conditions are the top cause of mortality among girls aged 15-19 globally. In 2018, the estimated adolescent birth rate globally was 44 births per 1 000 girls aged 15 to 19; in West and Central Africa, this figure stood at 115 births, the highest regional rate in the world.
There is need for care support and regulation so that every child and adolescent actively participates in school and achieves his or her high expectations. Effective life competences are critical in schools, it is also apparent that schools endeavour to see children achieve their full potential. Community health issues to these problems range from drug abuse, peer pressure, risky behaviours such as early sexual indulgence especially among children and adolescents. Such programmes that should be used as a policy intervention to mitigate the catastrophe. Policies that may be adopted to reduce risk behaviour that may result in teen pregnancies, include the introduction of sex education in the primary education curricula.
It is eminent that this policy be taken seriously given the fact that the nation can lose quite a number of future leaders in a year. Another policy intervention to mitigate pregnancy in girls in primary school would be to introduce a dimension in reproductive health education, especially on the use of contraceptives in order to reduce such pregnancies.
It is also critical that the Ministry of Health and Child Care plays its part in enforcing school health programmes that create consciousness or awareness among children on the effect of aborted education in this regard.
While it is appreciated that children’s’ behaviour may be the contributing factor in pregnancy and subsequent dropouts in schools, it can also be that adults are taking advantage of children thereby impregnating them. Stiffer penalties should be meted on adults who impregnate schoolchildren or lure boys into sexual relationships. A policy to protect minors should be enforced.
In the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Amendment (No.20) of 2013, Section 19, states the policies and measures that relate to matters of children. Placing greater focus on policies also has the potential to steer the public debate in a more productive way.
After dropping out from school in order for children to continue their education there is need for mechanisms for post pregnancy counselling.