School ban on pregnant teens divides Equatorial Guinea

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“Pregnancy is neither a crime nor a mental illness,” insists Imelda Bosuala, a 15-year-old who was turned away by her school in Equatorial Guinea after falling pregnant.

When the school term began last month, the government had put in place a new rule — in order to enrol, all teenage girls must take a pregnancy test.

And a positive test means no more education.

Speaking on state television, deputy education minister Maria-Jesus Nkara said the tough new measure sought to encourage schoolgirls to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies.

A month into the new term, it is still too early to tell how many girls have been affected by the ban in a country where teenage girls come under heavy pressure to start a family.

World Bank figures show that in 2014, the birth rate among Equatorial Guinean adolescents aged 15-19 was 110 in 1,000.

The figure is substantially higher than the global average of 44 per 1,000, but lower than in other African nations such as Niger (204), Mali (175) and Angola (167).

Rights organisations have criticised the authorities for violating the right to education, slamming the measure as another example of repression in this tiny oil-rich nation whose president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, has ruled with an iron fist since seizing power in a 1979 coup.

Illegal abortion fears

But opinions within the country are divided.

“This is a good decision,” said 13-year-old Sabina in the playground of Bioko Norte high school in the capital, Malabo.

“Coming to class while you’re pregnant shows a lack of respect.”

Even Bosuala herself is in two minds. “Pregnancy is also not a good example to set in the school environment,” she admits.

But French teacher Gerardo Ndong believes the decision was “foolish”.

And Trifonia Melibea, a sociologist and teacher at the National University of Equatorial Guinea, was also dismayed by the decision.

“These adolescents are being deprived of the fundamental right to education. That’s an insult,” she said.

She also warned that the measure could push teenagers into seeking abortions in “inhuman conditions”.

In the former Spanish colony of 800,000 people, pregnancies can be legally terminated only if there is a threat to the health of the mother and with the authorisation of the spouse or parents.

Daughters as ‘trade items’

Efua, whose 14-year-old daughter is expecting a baby, believes the government should open a dedicated school “especially for young pregnant girls” so they can keep up their studies.

Early pregnancies are most common in poor families, where adults might even consider sending a daughter out as a sexual offering.

“Some parents use their daughters as items of trade, asking them to go out with rich men to help the family survive,” said 19-year-old Ana Rita.

Sociologist Martin Ela pointed to increasing pressures from consumerism since oil production began in the 1990s.

“These little girls go out with someone who is able to give them a smartphone because they want to be on Facebook or WhatsApp,” Ela said.

Melibea said teenage girls were particularly vulnerable to pressure.

“In Equatorial Guinea, if a girl reaches the age of 18 without having a child, everybody starts saying she’s barren,” she said.

The high number of teen pregnancies can also be linked to the absence of legislative protection for minors against sexual harassment, meaning abusive men can operate with impunity.

‘Devastating consequences’

Sierra Leone introduced a similar ban on pregnant teens last year, prompting a sharp reaction from Amnesty International.

“Excluding pregnant girls from mainstream schools and banning them from sitting crucial exams is discriminatory and will have devastating consequences,” the London-based rights group said in a study released in November 2015.

“Education is a right and not something for governments to arbitrarily take away as a punishment.”

The report said the prohibition, which was sometimes enforced through “humiliating physical checks”, was likely to affect an estimated 10,000 young girls and risked destroying their future life opportunities.

The ban has yet to be lifted.

Source:Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) (AFP)

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African Champs League: Zamalek, Zesco and Setif through

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Egypt’s Zamalek and former champions Entente Setif of Algeria have joined Zambia’s Zesco United in the group stages of the African Champions League.

Zamalek, coached by former Birmingham City and Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish, grabbed a late equaliser against Mouloudia Bejaia to progress 3-1 on aggregate.

The success eases some of the pressure on McLeish, who’s side are trailing their great rivals Al Ahly in the Egyptian league by 11 points.

Setif, African champions in 2014, were held to a goalless draw at home by Sudan’s Al Merreikh.

Coupled with a 2-2 draw from the first leg, that takes the Algerians through on away goals.

Earlier Zesco beat Mali’s Stade Malien 2-1 on Tuesday to complete a 5-2 victory on aggregate and become the first team to reach the Champions League group stage.

Zesco’s Jesse Were scored the opener for the hosts after five minutes.

Samake Issaka equalised after the break for visitors Mali, but an 80th-minute close-range effort from Maybin Mwaba made certain of their progress.

Malien’s misery was complete when Issaka was sent off on 89 minutes.

The losers get a second chance as they enter the draw for the play-offs in the second-tier Confederation Cup.

There are five more matches on Wednesday, while the draw for the group phase takes place on 24 May.

Source: BBC

Inside Mali: Two Malian soldiers killed in Timbuktu attack

Soldiers of the Malian Army Forces secure the pist between Goundam and Timbuktu, northern Mali, on June 2, 2015.  By Philippe Desmazes (AFP/File)

Two Malian soldiers were killed Tuesday in a pre-dawn attack against an army checkpoint outside Timbuktu in northern Mali, the defence ministry and a UN source told AFP.

“We lost two men this Tuesday at about 3am (0300 GMT) at our checkpoint north of Timbuktu,” a defence ministry official said. The attack by unknown assailants was confirmed by a security source at MINUSMA, the UN mission in the country.

The ministry official said several soldiers had also been hurt in the “heavy arms” attack against the checkpoint and a Malian army vehicle hijacked.

The toll so far was “provisional”, he said. “We will provide further details today on this criminal attack,” he added.

The attack follows a deadly ambush on August 3 also in the Timbuktu region when 10 soldiers were killed in an attack on their camp at Gourma-Rharous by attackers believed to be jihadist fighters linked to Islamist group Ansar Dine.

Jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda seized control of Mali’s vast arid north from March 2012 until January 2013 when they were pushed back by forces from France, the country’s former colonial master.

But parts of the remote north remain out of the control of the army or of the UN military mission as the country struggles to restore peace.

There were hopes of a return to stability in May when northern-based loyalist militias signed a peace deal with Tuareg rebels in the area, but the deal remains fragile.

AFP

EU Commission gives Mali €1 million to address humanitarian crisis

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The European Commission has given Mali an additional 1 million euros to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the North where over 50,000 people have been displaced since May due to the upsurge of clashes, the EU Office in Mali said on Wednesday.

The statement said the additional funds bring EU’s total humanitarian support to Mali to 41 million euros in 2015.

“The funds will intensify rescue efforts in the North and provide assistance of food, water and health to Malians who were recently displaced as well as the host communities,” the statement said.

The communities that host the people displaced by the conflict are among the poorest in Mali, have already been affected by food insecurity and do not have enough resources, the statement affirmed.

According to EU, 3.1 million Malians are faced with food insecurity challenge in 2015, out of which 410,000 need urgent food aid.

Source: News Ghana
http://newsghana.com.gh/eu-commission-gives-mali-e1-million-to-address-humanitarian-crisis/