14 April 2015, Freetown- The United Nations in Sierra Leone notes the decision taken by the Government of Sierra Leone to disqualify pregnant schoolgirls from attending school and from sitting school examinations.
The United Nations wishes to remind the Government of Sierra Leone that education is a fundamental human right that Sierra Leone has committed itself to uphold. Article 4.1 of Sierra Leone’s Education Act (2004) includes the principle of non-discrimination in accessing education.
As a state Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sierra Leone has accepted its international obligation under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of human rights and freedoms, which includes Article 13 of the Covenant, the right to education. Furthermore, under Article 2.2 of the Covenant, Sierra Leone undertakes to guarantee the right to education without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sex.
The United Nations would encourage the Sierra Leone authorities to adopt a policy whereby pregnant schoolgirls can enjoy an education that is available, accessible and acceptable:
• Available means that functioning educational institutions and programmes have to be available in sufficient quantity within Sierra Leone for the pregnant schoolgirls;
• Accessible means that the schools must be accessible without discrimination; that they are physically accessible (i.e. within safe physical reach); and that they are affordable;
• Acceptable means that the form and substance of education, including curricula and teaching methods, have to be acceptable.
The United Nations in Sierra Leone stands ready to assist the Government in fulfilling the right to education for all its children, irrespective of their temporary status as a pregnant teenager.