The Northern Regional Director of Education, Dr. Peter Attafuah, has revealed that a total of 127 girls from the region could not write the 2020 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) because they were pregnant.
Out of the total number, he said 113 were BECE candidates while the remaining 14 were WASSCE candidates.
Speaking at an education dialogue series organised by a non-governmental organisation, School for Life, in Tamale last Wednesday, Dr. Attafuah stated that even though pregnancies among BECE and WASSCE candidates were not new, “the number was high in 2020 as compared to the previous years”.
Presenting the district breakdown of the BECE figures, Dr. Attafuah indicated that Gushegu District recorded the highest with 19 pregnancies, followed by Saboba District which recorded 18 pregnancies.
The remaining districts recorded pregnancies with the exception of Karaga and Mion districts as well as the Savelugu Municipal which did not record any pregnancy cases across the junior high schools (JHS).
The director further indicated that the 14 WASSCE cases were recorded in only seven senior high schools (SHS), with Tolon SHS leading with five cases while the Presbyterian SHS, Saboba EP SHS and Vitting SHTS recorded two cases each.
The remaining three cases were recorded in Kumbungu SHS, Gushegu SHS, and Ambariyya SHS, which recorded one case each.
Dr. Attafuah indicated that the pregnancies among the candidates, which led to their absenteeism in the examinations, were largely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the students stayed home for far longer than usual during the COVID-19 outbreak, which gave some of the girls the opportunity to engage in sexual related activities leading to their pregnancies.
Aside from the pregnancies among the candidates, some of the district directors of education stated that other girls, who were not candidates, were equally found pregnant when schools resumed from the COVID-19 break.
According to those district directors, before schools resumed, some pupils had also engaged themselves in various apprenticeship and skill training programmes and, therefore, refused to return to schools.
The Programme Director of the School for Life, Ms. Wedad Sayibu, said the forum intended to bring together key stakeholders including all district directors of education to reflect, discuss and take concrete action to address pertinent challenges that affected education delivery in the region in the era of COVID-19.
She said the series were also necessary in strengthening civil society’s role in improving access to relevant quality education in the region.
“The dialogue series aims at discussing and reflecting on emerging issues now that schools have been reopened,” she said.
It is on the theme: “Emerging issues from school reopening so far: concerns, challenges and way forward”.
The directors appealed to parents to stop giving their wards out for marriage as a result of unplanned pregnancies.
According to them, even with pregnancies, pupils had the right to education and to take part in the WASSCE and BECE.