‘Beacon Teachers’ keep girls in school

They are tasked with ensuring girls continue with their studies as per education policy

In Summary

• Returing to the same school one was studying is dreaded by girls who fall pregnant

• The officials always recommend that the girl joins a different school for peace of mind

Abraham Nyamawi, an education coordinator in Msambweni subcounty
Abraham Nyamawi, an education coordinator in Msambweni subcounty

Kwale county has put in place various measures to ensure girls who get pregnant at an early age are given a second chance to continue with their education.

This includes training teachers across schools to act as a link between the girls and the schools.

Termed as ‘Beacon Teachers’, they are tasked with ensuring that the girls continue with their education as per the education policy, which stipulates that such girls do not drop out of school.

Abraham Nyamawi, an education coordinator in Msambweni subcounty, says that when such cases are reported to the education offices, they are directed to the relevant departments, such as hospitals, to ascertain the pregnancy.

Thereafter, they are referred to the police and children's departments to take over the cases and ensure the girls get their rights to education.

A senior police officer who spoke on anonymity due to protocols in the police force says the police rely on village elders, area chiefs, community policing members and parents to get information from villages on defilement, GBV and teen pregnancies in the county.

He says that multi-agency collaboration with the Judiciary, the Education ministry and the children’s department has seen most of the reported cases followed and justice served.

Nyamawi on the other hand says in some cases, the courts might decide that the perpetrators are taken to safe houses to be away from the perpetrators so as to continue with their education even as the legal process goes on.

For many girls, however, going back to the same school they were studying in before might end up being another nightmare they have to battle with.

“Stigma has been there for girls who get pregnant by fellow students,” Nyamawi says.

"Other teachers also use the students as a bad example. This makes them stay away from school. They prefer to be at home to avoid the stigma."

As a result, the Beacon Teachers, who have been trained along with head teachers, are tasked with ensuring they have a good rapport with the students.

This will in turn make them feel free to report any cases of stigma they have passed through.

They also educate other students and other teachers in the school to ensure they don’t use demeaning language with the pregnant girls so as not to make them feel unwanted and drop out.

“At school, we have guidance and counselling departments, where girls, when they are found to be pregnant, are taken through proper counselling,” he says.

In cases where the girls feel uneasy going back to school for fear of stigma, the officials always recommend that they change schools to ensure they are in a conducive environment.

“We work with schools to get them alternative schools, where we tell the principal why the student is being brought to their school,” Nyamawi says.

“That way the teacher is aware of the foundation of the girl and should be able to accept and guide her to continue with her education.”

The Beacon Teachers movement was started by Plan international together with the the Teachers Service Commission in Kenya.

The aim was to give teachers the opportunity to promote child protection in their schools and communities.

The teachers have been trained to detect, prevent and report cases of child abuse as well as educate community members on how to keep children safe.

As part of their role, the teachers educate children about their rights and what to do if they are abused.

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