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Sierra Leone overturns ban on pregnant schoolgirls

Sierra Leone has overturned a five-year law barring pregnant girls from going to school.

Teenage pregnancy is an issue in many African countries
Teenage pregnancy is an issue in many African countries

The ban was introduced in 2015 as schools reopened after the Ebola crisis, which saw a rise in pregnancies among school-age girls.

West Africa’s top court ruled in December that the girls were discriminated against and their human rights violated.

Teenage pregnancy is a huge issue in Sierra Leone.

The UN children’s agency Unicef in a 2015 report found that 40% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.

Several rights organisations sued the Sierra Leone government at the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) court in May 2018.

The court ruled last year that the “discriminatory” policy had denied the girls their right to education.

Judges also criticised parallel learning centres that had been set up for the girls, saying it was “another form of discrimination” and ordered that they be abolished.

President Julius Maada Bio, who had come into office a month earlier, said in a statement after the December ruling that he was committed to “inclusion of every citizen” in his development plans.

There was an increase in underage pregnancy during the Ebola crisis, which left many girls vulnerable to sexual abuse and desperate for money.

The issue of pregnant girls going to school is also a big issue on the other side of Africa, in Tanzania.

President John Magufuli has defended the policy of banning pregnant girls from school, saying young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school. BBC News

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