An ethical assessment of the Zambian school re-entry policy with respect to teenage pregnancy: a case study of selected secondary schools in Lusaka

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Kabwe, Alfred
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The University of Zambia
The study investigated, from the ethical point of view, if the school re-entry policy in Zambia is ethically justified, using six purposively selected secondary schools in Lusaka. The objectives of the study were to investigate the current perceptions about the causes of teenage pregnancies among school going girls; to investigate the current perceptions about the effects of the school re-entry policy; to investigate the current attitudes to teenage pregnancies, and finally to make an ethical evaluation of the findings. A case study design was used involving qualitative methodology with an ethical component. The target population for the study comprised pupils, teachers, parents and representatives from Lusaka District Education Board Secretary‟s office (DEBS) and from Forum for African Women Educationists of Zambia (FAWEZA). The total sample was 78 respondents. It was comprised of 22 teenage mothers, 30 other pupils, 12 teachers, 12 parents of teenage mothers, 1 representative from Lusaka DEBS and 1 representative from FAWEZA. The methods used to collect primary data were focus group discussions, observations, indepth interviews and questionnaires. Data from teenage mothers and other pupils were obtained through questionnaires and six focus group discussions. Data from teachers, parents and representatives from Lusaka DEBS and FAWEZA were obtained by using indepth interviews. Data collected was then analysed by coding and manually grouping the emerging themes. Interpretations and conclusions were then made from the data. The significance of this study is that it would contribute to the controversy surrounding the girls‟ school re-entry policy by subjecting it to an ethical assessment. The findings of the study revealed that Zambia has a relatively flexible school re-entry policy which allows pregnant girls to continue with their education. People‟s views about the school re-entry policy have changed since 2010 and their attitudes are becoming more favourable to the school re-entry policy. Meanwhile, the incidence of teenage pregnancy among school girls in Zambia remains high. Perceived causes of teenage pregnancies are peer pressure, curiosity, poverty, lack of self discipline and lack of parental guidance. Perceptions of the positive effects of the school re-entry policy are primarily that teenage mothers are enabled to gain an education and contribute to national development. Perceptions of the negative effects of the school re-entry policy are primarily that other girls might emulate the bad example of girls that get pregnant in school and become pregnant too, leading to high numbers of pregnancies in schools. Perceptions of the negative effects of the expulsion policy are primarily that there would be an increase in ignorance and illiteracy which would retard national development. Utilitarian ethical theory justified the school re-entry policy in Zambia in that the overall consequences of the re-entry policy on all affected were seen to be better than the consequences of expulsion. Rights theory justified the human right of pregnant girls to education notwithstanding the need to protect the rights of others. The principle of the lesser evil led to the conclusion that the negative effects of the re-entry policy are less than the negative effects of the expulsion policy. Hence, the overall ethical evaluation concluded that, despite disadvantages, the school re-entry policy is currently justified. Virtue ethics poses a challenge to both parents and teachers to serve as role models to the girls. Recommendations are made to encourage schools to form peer educator groups and to encourage the government to ensure that Comprehensive Sexuality Education is effectively implemented in schools. Parents/teacher associations are also encouraged to spearhead the moral education of pupils in order to reduce teenage pregnancies.
Re-entry policy--teenage pregnancy--Zambia