First Lady Margaret Kenyatta wants teenage mothers re-integrated into schools to give them a chance to complete their education.
She said early pregnancies should not mean a dead end to the education of girls or condemn the young mothers to misery and poverty associated with illiteracy.
The Kenyan First Lady spoke at the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) in Kingston on Monday where she was the guest of honour.
She spoke to a group of teenage mothers who have successfully been reintegrated back to school through a special programme for adolescent mothers.
The First Lady is accompanying President Uhuru Kenyatta who is on a three-day state visit of the Caribbean nation.
“I have fervently supported projects – such as this one, that encourage girls to stay in school to benefit from uninterrupted education despite their circumstances. I truly believe in the promise of hope that education gives to empower our girls,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.
She said keeping girls in school directly lowers the rate of maternal mortality and protects young women from challenges such as HIV infections.
Using the case of Kenya, the First Lady said girls are hindered in their pursuit of education by very many barriers among them the distance between their homes and learning institutions and financial limitations that constrain many families causing young girls to stay at home to cater for their siblings.
Harmful practices such as early marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are the other impediments to girl child education cited by the Kenyan First Lady.
“We work hard to find practical solutions similar to this program to ensure the young teenagers do not drop out of school. We encourage communities to reintegrate young mothers and send them back to school,” the First Lady said adding that Kenya needs to take lessons from the Jamaican learning model for adolescent mothers.
The First Lady who was hosted at the centre by Lady Allen Patrick, the spouse of the Governor General of Jamaica and accompanied by Sports Minister Olivia Grange said there are millions of vulnerable girls across the world who need help towards achieving their dreams in education but hardly get the opportunity and support they deserve to make them achieve their dreams.
“We all want the girl child to have a better future, yet we cannot forget that there are still girls who deserve these opportunities but never get a chance,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.
She applauded her hosts for the innovative program and congratulated current students for their unyielding resilience and for recognizing the importance of education in unlocking their future.
Besides providing education for young mothers, the centre offers intensive counselling on health, family and life education, childcare training and provision of support and referral services for both men and women.
Since the inception of the facility 40 years ago, over 46,000 teenage mothers have successfully gone through the program, some rising to become significant members of the Jamaican society.
“I encourage all you girls here to make the most of this opportunity to nurture your talent and reach for the stars,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta told the young mothers
She encouraged the teenage mothers to strive for excellence in their academic work and in developing their characters as they pursue dreams to become successful women.