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Sunday, September 20, 2009

With Child Will School


Dr. Lester CN Simon

The comments regarding the schoolgirl with child, are painfully exercising our thoughts because we are dealing with a complex problem, and we wrongly assume that a complex problem always requires a complex solution.

It all started with the recent proposed amendment to the Education Act of Antigua and Barbuda, which partly states that….. “A noticeably pregnant student is not permitted to attend a public school or an assisted private school or to wear a school uniform in public until the end of the pregnancy."

The pregnant schoolgirl should continue her secondary school education. She also requires additional special education and support about pregnancy and child care. If this is so, then the first part of the proposed amendment suggests that the noticeably pregnant student should be relegated to some unassisted private school or facility. No such school or facility exists. And it would be counterproductive to open one.

It follows then that the noticeably pregnant schoolgirl should continue to attend her regular school right up to the day or time her doctor says she should be admitted to hospital or until such time she would deliver the baby in hospital or at home. Government and private facilities already in existence can be extended to assist the mother-to-be.

If you agree that the first part of the proposed amendment is outrageously wrong, shortsighted, or even silly, and discriminatory, I have to tell you that I think the second part is in perfect order.

A school uniform, like any uniform, signals an agreement to abide by a set of rules and regulations. The respect for the school uniform means that there must be undivided attention to these rules and regulations and to decency, decorum and choices appropriate for students, within and without the school premises.

I get upset when I see students, especially ones form my Alma Mater, wearing odd caps and hats and berets, and whatever else, with the established uniform. These accessories should be official accessories designed in the colors of the uniform and sanctioned by the school. Any thing else demeans the uniform and makes a mockery of it.

I can only conclude from my argument that the pregnant schoolgirl, noticeably or unnoticeably with child, should be defrocked of her school uniform and continue to attend school as previously noted.

It follows that the schoolboy who got the schoolgirl pregnant, or for whom some other woman is pregnant, must also be disrobed of the school uniform, and continue to attend school, as well as the appropriate counseling sessions to receive appropriate support for a father-to-be.

Having said all that, I am forced to conclude also that the schoolgirl who gets married in school must walk the same aisle as her pregnant school mates who defy, wittingly or unwittingly, the uniform set of rules, regulations and general guidelines that define a secondary school.

A complex matter sometimes requires a simple solution. Our desire for a complex answer in this matter is part of our customary illogic of wanting to have our cake, after we have eaten it.

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