The Honourable Delma Thomas, Minister for Social Development, Housing and Community Empowerment, in her recent cabinet speech stated that the government is considering reintegrating teenage pregnant young ladies into mainstream schools in order to continue their education.
The Grenada Association of Professional Social Workers (GAPSW) supports this initiative as teenage mothers who desire this should not be prevented from continuing their education in mainstream schools. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in its 2010 report with relevance to teenage pregnancy recommended that the State should “Take steps to ensure equal access to education without discrimination” Despite this recommendation, there is no clear policy on teenage mothers returning to mainstream education. The Programme for Adolescent Mothers (PAM) has always supported those young women wishing to remain in mainstream education, however, this has not always been supported by parents’ groups associated with many schools in the country. If this attitude continues to prevail, many teenage mothers will be left with limited choices.
It is also important to note that returning to mainstream education will only work for some young women — those who have strong family support — as these young women have historically, faced huge challenges. The Programme for Adolescent Mothers (PAM) offers a support system whereby the babies of the teen mothers are cared for on-site in a day nursery facility where mother and child’s interactions are monitored and parenting classes are provided, where the teenage mothers can also breastfeed and soothe their babies during the day. These services cannot be provided in an ordinary school setting.
The Programme for Adolescent Mothers (PAM) has been operating for many years and has provided education and skills programme for over 500 young women. PAM is an NGO in its own right, it is a registered charity and is operated under a board of directors. It is a well-established organisation which is recognised locally, regionally and internationally and has partnered with various reputable international organisation. It has served as a research-based institution for Grenadians studying their masters and PhD at universities abroad. It has also hosted social work students from Florida State University on placement with PAM as part of their studies.
Currently, the programme is not functioning under the auspices of PAM and is operating under a temporary name known as the Continuing Education for Girls, which is managed by the Ministry of Social Development. The Programme for Adolescent Mothers is worthy and is an invaluable programme that numerous young women have benefited from. It is important that PAM continues and a board of management is formed soon to be able to continue the PAM programme for all the reasons mentioned above. Should PAM cease to exist, it will be a retrograde step in the provision of services to an already beleaguered part of our community. This cannot be allowed to happen.