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Pregnant Sierra Leone girls given second chance to Special government schools

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At 17, Fatmata is pregnant with her second child. She was only 15 when she gave birth to her first child. She and her cousin were forced to leave school when their pregnancy became too visible.

A rule imposed in Sierra Leone by the government, which considers that these girls show the bad example.

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“I was unhappy because I could not see my friends or the girls in my village at school, but I was pregnant, and then I had to take care of my child, I would have preferred something else, but I did not have a choice,” Fatmata said.

In this small country in West Africa, one in three pregnant persons is a teenager. In response to international pressure related to these controversial exclusion measures, the government has been forced to open special classes for pregnant girls.

They can continue their education, following a very light program, and away from other adolescents. But, young fathers are spared.

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Brima Turay, press secretary, at the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Education said “it’s counterproductive to isolate young boys just because they impregnate a girl. Boys do not bear children, but girls yes, and it shows, that’s the big difference.”

The government claims that this initiative is a success: 5,000 of the 14,000 girls enrolled in these special schools eventually returned to traditional school after pregnancy. But nearly two-thirds of them remain permanently excluded from the education system.

“It is not because these girls are pregnant that their education has to stop. That’s very clear, and we told the Minister of Education: we want these girls to be educated, not discriminated against, but the government does not allow that,” Wongani Taulo, in charge of education for UNICEF noted.

Sex education does not exist in Sierra Leone. And even temporary solutions are under threat: the government says it does not have enough money to continue funding these courses.

At the risk of condemning thousands of teenagers to drop out of school completely.

24 Hours Across Africa

Thousands bid fare well to Mugabe..

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Zimbabwe’s founder Robert Mugabe was honored as an icon, principled leader and African intellectual giant at a state funeral on Saturday, after a week of disputes over his burial threatened to embarrass President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence until he was ousted by the army in November 2017, by which time he was viewed by many at home and abroad as a power-obsessed autocrat who unleashed death squads, rigged elections and ruined the economy to keep control.

He died in a Singapore hospital on Sept. 6 aged 95, far away from a country he left polarized by a raging political rivalry between its two largest political parties, ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC.

His remains will be interred in a mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre in the capital Harare in about 30 days, his nephew said on Friday, contradicting earlier comments that a burial would be held on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mnangagwa walked behind the casket carrying Mugabe’s body as it was wheeled into the center of Harare’s National Sports Stadium and placed on a podium decorated with flowers so that heads of state could say their farewells. Senior army generals and Mugabe’s wife and children followed, as a brass band played.

The 60,000 seater stadium was only half-filled.

In a tribute to his predecessor, Mnangagwa said Mugabe stood in defense of Africans. He urged the West to remove sanctions that were imposed during Mugabe’s rule.

“We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice … encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute,” Mnangagwa said in a speech.

“A giant tree of Africa has fallen. Today Africa weeps.”

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party wanted Mugabe buried at the national shrine to heroes of the 15-year liberation war against white minority rule. But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former comrades ousted Mugabe, had pushed for him to be buried in his home village.

Walter Chidhakwa, who spoke on behalf of Mugabe’s family, said Mugabe was an icon who was determined and unflinching in pursuing policies like land reform and later the black economic empowerment program.

Mugabe left behind a country wrecked by hyperinflation, dollarization and deeply entrenched corruption.

But many Zimbabweans also remember Mugabe as their country’s liberator from white minority rule and for broadening people’s access to education and land

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24 Hours Across Africa

Nigeria: FG approves $5.3bn Ibadan-Kano rail project

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