The Second Chance: The Need for Programs Encouraging Young Mothers to Return to School
[By Mamudou Jallow]
A society that is keen on diversity must promote its women. Promoting women means empowering them with the requisite knowledge and skills to help them succeed in life. This is crucial most especially in these challenging times we live in. This should be the agenda for the government and society in general.
However, the agenda to advance the affairs of women will be incomplete and largely ineffective if some women are left out in the cold. The drive must be toward empowering all women. No woman must be left behind.
With this in mind, it is important to voice out the plight of the young mother who consequently has to leave school when she has a baby. Granted, there is no educational policy barring young mothers from going back to school. However, once a young woman gives birth, her odds of going back to school are stacked sky high.
A young woman with a baby is said to have “graduated” and is banished to the land of motherhood with a very slim chance of ever getting back to school. Often there is not enough support given to such women and their babies to allow them the time and concentration necessary to continue with their education.
We’ve often seen cases where intelligent young women drop out of school just because they had babies. Some young women we’ve met were forcibly removed from school and wed away to the first suitor in hastily arranged marriages. Just like with many things done in haste without proper thinking, these marriages often crumble few years down the line. Unfortunately for such young woman, they would have had one or two babies before their ill-fated marriages went south.
Imagine their plight! Robbed off their youth and left with little souls to take care of with hardly enough support, going back to where they left off in school would probably be one of the last things on the to-do list of many such women. In a country where the laws requiring a man to take care of his ex-wife and children are hardly enforced; divorce for most women means being condemned to many years of struggle until the next husband comes along.
It is gut-wrenching to think of the struggles that young divorced mothers go through. As a result, I believe it is not too much to ask for programs to be put in place to help fulfill the dreams of young mothers who want to go back to school. How can we help?
#1.Family and Community Intervention
The onus is on the families as well as community and religious leaders to remain truthful to their duties towards the young. Often when we tie the knot between couples, we have family and community elders selected as witnesses to the marriage. The witnesses are there to ensure that both parties are protected in case something happens in the future.
However, in practice the very people who were there as go-betweens for the marriage or witnesses at its officiating, conveniently disappear in thin air once problems happen. Often it is the young woman and her babies that suffer endless financial and physiological difficulties while the very people who could have any meaningful contribution choose to stay away from the thorny conversations. This is hypocrisy.
Society must support our women and as parents, community and religious leaders, we must ensure that our women, especially young mothers, are fully taken care of so they can pursue their dreams especially in terms of completing their education.
Government must ensure that no dead-beat dads remain in our society. Anybody who fathers a child must be made to take care of that child no matter how sour their relationship is with the mother. If every father is made to fulfill all their obligations toward their children, then our young mothers will have the time and concentration to go back to school when they so wish.
The creation of training centers for young mothers by the government and NGOs would also help encourage the young mother to try a second chance at getting the education and training that will put her on the path to success in the increasingly competitive world we live in today.
We must wake up to the fact that we will not develop as a country unless all are on board. It is for this reason that we need the women to participate in every step of the way. However, we will be sabotaging our attempts to have the female inclusion necessary to move the country forward if we refuse to put programs in place to allow young mothers to go back to school. We must remember that teaching a woman means teaching the nation.