Students who fall pregnant and give birth while still in school are still finding it difficult to return to school after giving birth due to stigmatisation from their peers and teachers, as teen mom, Iyaloo Vilho, experienced.
Despite the Learner Pregnancy Policy that was implemented in 2010, which directed schools to allow teenage parents to return to school, pupils are still not returning to school after giving birth.
Vilho, who fell pregnant while she was in school, says dealing with the stigma is the hardest part of being a pregnant. Vilho, who is now 20-years-old, fell pregnant in her 12th grade and was afraid of what her teachers and students would say about her pregnancy when she went back to school.
“When I realized that I was pregnant, I had so many thoughts that were popping up in my head because I was afraid how and what people would think of me,” she said adding that her school was still the first priority even though she felt like she had disappointed herself and was not accepted by the community as a result of her condition.
Her parents advised her to keep going to school and only to stop attending class when the baby was due but she explained that it was not easy for her to continue going to school while pregnant.
“My parents were a bit understanding. Mostly my mom probably because she understands the whole concept, but I was not ready to take up the challenge to face my fear and go to school at the time I was pregnant (sic),” she said, adding that she was so afraid of being stigmatized and being questioned about what happened to her by people knew her as a good and well-disciplined girl.
She added that when a girl falls pregnant and stays in school, sometimes they would be mocked by other students, and even teachers.
“Some male teacher will mock you in the midst of others in the classroom, because they once proposed you and refused them, so they take that opportunity to feel bad as revenge,” she explained.
The father of the child, whom she said was a married man did not have any regard for her education. As a result of her pregnancy, Vilho did not go to school for two years , including her 9-month pregnancy period and the year she took off take care of her baby after giving birth.
“I am not happy that I have to spend two years down not going to school, but I had no option but to wait until I give birth to my baby. I am so glad that my mother kept on encouraging me not to give up and doing the most stupid thing most girls do by aborting their babies,” says Vilho.
She said she regrets the time she has wasted but has since decided to take her education more seriously. She added that it is now hard for her to catch up with her school work because it has been two years since she has been to school. “I am now improving my grade 12 points through Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) at the same school where I used to attend classes and my teachers are now supportive towards my education,” she said. With 3 subjects (English, Geography and History) for which she registered, she hopes to score good marks that will enable her to go study as a Tour Guide in national parks.
“I have realized that education is the only road to success,” she said, adding that “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through at all. Girls in school should be more careful about men out there who are after them, because at the end of the day, it is not their education that is affected but only that of the girl. In most cases, these men do not even take responsibility for their deeds.”
Vilho, who is attends her classes as required while her mother takes care of the baby, concluded that even though there is a policy that allows pregnant learners to return to school or be in school, it is not easy to do. She expressed the need for the community to be educated on how to react to things like pregnancy in girls of school-going-age and the impact it can have on their education.