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The National Youth Commission (NYC) welcomes the pronouncement of the Department of Education (DepEd) prohibiting the penalizing of students because of pregnancy. This is under the DepEd’s Child Protection Policy that disallows the discrimination against pregnant students. The youth agency was quick to point out that this policy only covers public schools. “We call on private school administrators to follow suit,” said NYC Commissioner Perci Cendaña.
NYC stressed that “it is important for private schools to take the cue from public schools on this matter because a number of private educational institutions have the practice of suspending pregnant students. Schools managed by religious groups suspend pregnant students because they are perceived as bad examples to their peers.”
The youth agency reminds private institutions of the universality of the right to education. “A school does not have the authority to strip a student of her rights because she got pregnant. Students have equal rights, pregnant or not. Moreover, the Magna Carta of Women provides that no secondary school shall turn out or refuse admission to a female student for being pregnant during her term in school.”
“To suspend or expel students for being pregnant is to go against the welfare of young women who are likely to face financial difficulties in the future because of reduced economic options and opportunities. By doing so, these schools are making more difficult the already desperate situation that these young women are in,” Commissioner Cendaña explained.
NYC cites the 2010 National Youth Assessment Study (NYAS) finding that 72% of the youth themselves recognize teen pregnancy as one of the main reasons why young girls do not to finish school. This can be reduced by non-discrimination and anti-stigma policies for pregnant teens. “We are not promoting early pregnancy, what we are advocating is to have an enabling environment for these teens, instead of closing doors and cutting their chances for a brighter future,” adds Commissioner Perci.
The NYC renews its call for the immediate passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. “With age-appropriate RH education, we can make significant progress in reducing teen pregnancy in the country”, Commissioner Cendaña concluded. The Philippines ranks third in teen pregnancy incidence in the region behind Laos and Timorleste.
The NYC, as convenor of the inter-agency group on Adolescent Sexual and Health (ASRH), led the recently concluded National Summit on Teen Pregnancy.