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An estimated 1,000 teenagers a year would have had four pregnancies before the age of 19, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh revealed during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate. He was responding to a question on the order paper from Independent senator Victor Wheeler.
Gopeesingh later told reporters many of the teenage mothers had said they felt they were not loved and got pregnant because they wanted something to hold on to. Gopeesingh said the situation was very frightening, and many of today’s teenage mothers were children of teenage mothers. Earlier, he told legislators his information was based on research done by the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies.
Wheeler wanted to know how many primary schoolgirls gave birth in the years from 2008 to 2012 and how many at both the primary and secondary school levels returned to school after giving birth. Wheeler also wanted to know how many of them were able to complete their education up to Form Five. Gopeesingh said there were four official cases of primary school students giving births during the specified four-year period: one in 2008, two in 2010 and one in 2012.
He told legislators that all four girls who gave birth returned to school and completed their primary school education and moved into secondary schools. Three of the four completed education up to Form Five, but the girl who gave birth in 2012 did not complete her secondary education. During the four-year period, his ministry received 153 reported cases of teenage pregnancy in girls ranging from 13 to 18 years.
Gopeesingh said 81 girls returned to school and 54 completed education up to Form Five. He gave a breakdown in the following educational districts:
• Victoria educational district reported—15
• Port-of-Spain and environs—52
• St George East—26
• North Eastern—4
• South Eastern—3
• St Patrick 9
Gopeesingh said the Government had reformed the curriculum in primary schools to include morals, values, ethics, citizen redevelopment, character development, physical education, visual and performing arts and health and family life education. The minister also said sex education was taught under social studies in secondary schools.
He said there were very strong student support services in his ministry, adding that Cabinet had recently approved a note for the expansion of that department. He said there were hundreds of guidance counsellors, officers and social workers in the system.
The minister said the ministry was using a multi-pronged approach to dealing with school violence and indiscipline, adding that the engagement of the security services on the determination of statutory rape was a step in the right direction. He said if people were apprehended for statutory rape, there would be a drop in the teenage pregnancy rate. No student would be denied her education because she got pregnant, he said.
The minister, who has been a gynaecologist for 26 years, said in antenatal clinics at Mt Hope Women’s Hospital two-thirds of the new patients seen were teenage pregnancies.
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