Ekiti State in southwest Nigeria has adopted a policy to ban the expulsion of girls from schools during and after pregnancy, an important step in ending the longstanding discriminatory practice.
Although Nigeria’s Child Rights Act protects the rights of girls to education during and after pregnancy, many continue to face expulsion because there is a lack of awareness and no policies in place to ensure their continuation in school.
Most of Nigeria’s staggering 10.5 million out-of-school children are girls. Girls face unique challenges in getting an education, including economic barriers and sociocultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in school.
Pregnancy is a barrier to girls continuing their education and governments have a duty to break this barrier by ensuring there are positive policies and regulations that help school-age pregnant girls and young mothers stay in or return to school. This is especially important given the high adolescent pregnancy rates in Nigeria, with girls between the ages of 15 and 19 accounting for 145 out of every 1,000 births.
Ekiti State has shown leadership by adopting the “Operation Keep Girls in School” policy but needs to do more to ensure its effectiveness. This should include efforts to create awareness among school management officials, teachers, communities, and girls themselves, and to monitor all schools to ensure they are enforcing this important policy.
The federal government and other states should take necessary steps to respect the Child Rights Act and adopt policies and strategies that ensure girls stay in school, where they belong, during and after pregnancy.