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Repentant, passionate teenager returns to school

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By Sellah Singini:

RETURNED TO SCHOOL AFTER GIVING BIRTH—Ruth

She got pregnant at the age of 16 while waiting for results of Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations in 2016.

When the results were released, Ruth Chancy, now 18, was selected to Mpalale Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Dedza District where she started Form one with a five-month pregnancy.

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“The man who impregnated me insisted that I should not go to school, saying he would marry me. I refused to get married because of my passion for education. I knew that I made a mistake by getting the pregnancy but did not want it to spoil my ambition to get educated,” she says.

However, Ruth says life was not easy at school as she was welcomed by insults from fellow learners.

“I was teased by my fellow students who could say ‘Tikuphunzira ndi a mayi muno’ (we are learning with a mother),” Ruth says.

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She adds: “Even people in my community also mocked me.”

Ruth says her parents, too, were reluctant to pay secondary school fees for her.

“They told me that paying fees for me would be a waste of money and preferred to support my brother whom they said could not drop out due to pregnancy,” she explains.

However, the parents’ resistance did not stop her from going to school. Her determination later forced the parents to give her a second chance. They started paying the school fees.

When the pregnancy reached eight months, Ruth stopped going to school awaiting delivery of her baby. She gave birth to a baby boy who kept her out of school for a year.

“I missed classes for a year. I am in Form Two now but I was supposed to be in Form Three. I regret my conduct,” she says.

Ruth is grateful to her mother who takes care of her son while she is at school.

“Leaving my young child at home to attend classes had its own psychological impact on me. I could easily lose concentration in class as I kept thinking about my child,” she says.

Nevertheless, she says, by and by, she got used.

Ruth is thankful to her teachers for being supportive both academically and morally.

“The teachers said I had made a right decision to go back to school and keep on encouraging me not to lose focus,” she says.

Mpalale CDSS Head Teacher Amos Lizira describes Ruth as an above-average student.

“She promises to be one of the best students to ever emerge from this school,” Lizira says.

Ruth has now turned herself into an anti-teenage pregnancy crusader.

“I advise my fellow girls to concentrate on education and not to be engaged in promiscuous behaviour that can lead them to get pregnant. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve gone through it. It’s not good to be a teenage mother and it’s not easy to go back to school as a mother,” Ruth says.

Group Village Headman Mpalale says in his area alone, there are 10 young girls who have gone back to school after delivery.

“I commend Ruth for the bold decision to go back to school. She has made the right decision that she will cherish the rest of her Life,” Mpalale says.

He adds that he usually encourages parents of girls who drop out due to pregnancies to send them back to school after giving birth.

Meanwhile, Youth Initiative for Community Development (Yicod), an organisation that works with youths on issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, is implementing a mentorship programme in Dedza aimed at equipping girls with life skills.

Yicod’s Executive Director, Andrew Bwanali, says the organisation provides capacity building to girls so that they should have a clear understanding of their sexual needs and be able to make decisions based on the given information.

“We do encourage girls to be part of groups and mentor them on issues to do with life skills,” he says.

Bwanali says there is high increase of teenage pregnancies in the district due to poverty, hence the need for parents to be fully engaged to address the issue.

“Yes, our girls are going back to school after giving birth but we should not forget that when getting pregnancy they can contract HIV and Aids as well.

“Many girls lack parental care, financial as well as psychological support from parents, who do not even open up to discuss with their girl child issues of sexual and reproductive health,” he explains.

This, according to Bwanali, leaves girls growing up without knowing how their bodies work on reproductive health.— Mana

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