Parents and teachers associations in Rwanda have called on the government to provide schools with pregnancy tests for female students as a way to curb teenage pregnancies.
The call came as the government carried out a countrywide campaign to assess challenges affecting quality of education and help raise awareness among education stakeholders about the most glaring issues facing the sector.
According to educators and parents, unplanned pregnancies were among issues hindering education and called for immediate solutions.
Parents who talked to Rwanda Today said there is a need to help schools buy pregnancy testing kits to conduct regular checkups.
“Schools should conduct periodic tests among girls as this should deter them from having sex while studying,” said one of the parents from Rubavu district.
“As parents, we rarely have time with our children and have handed that role to teachers. We need to reconsider our cultural values for the sake of our children,” he added.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, last year alone 17,444 teenagers had unwanted pregnancies across the country and many eventually dropped out of school or suspended their education for a period of time.
Reports show part of the causes of unwanted pregnancies are linked to vulnerability and poverty; lack of information on reproductive health; poor follow up by parents and school leaders or family conflicts.
However, teachers emphasised the need for revision of rights to sexual and reproductive health and encouraged direct participation by students.
“We need to get closer to the girls so that they feel free to talk to us openly,” said Jeanne Nyiransabimana a teacher at Nyundo School of Art, adding, “The men who impregnate these girls never face justice and the girls end up as the victims.”
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, Director General of science, technology and Research at Mineduc, said the objective of the campaign is to have a holistic approach to solving the issue.
“Factors leading to these issues are different and it is up to parents and teachers associations to develop solutions,” she said.