The ban on pregnant girls being allowed to attend school in Sierra Leone may be in its final days. Almost one-third of children there are reportedly born to school-age girls, a statistic that rose dramatically during the Ebola outbreak. As a result, in 2010, the government implemented a ban on pregnant girls receiving a formal education, which was expected to be overturned as soon as schools reopened after the crisis ended, but the country’s education minister instead chose to the continue the ban. U.N. officials alongside U.K. and Irish Aid representatives entered talks with the government in an attempt to overturn the ban. After several weeks, they have reported that they believe they are close to a breakthrough and to possibly reaching an agreement. The sharp rise in teen pregnancy was a result of girls who had lost their families to Ebola and who were reportedly using transactional sex as a way to cover their basic needs. Such high rates of teen pregnancy are not rare in Africa and the U.N. hopes that if Sierra Leone overturns the ban, it could be held up as an example to other African countries. Sierra Leone already has the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world. If upheld, the ban will further the cycle of poverty, said Kate Gilmore, deputy executive director of the UNFPA. The ban “is eroding their capacity, as future parents, to be literate, to be numerate, to be part of economic society,” Gilmore said.
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