– Beatrice Schultz
“I can’t concentrate in class because I worry about him: how he is, if he has eaten, if he is ok…”
Books clutched to her chest, head down, walking through the corridors hoping not to be seen. The teachers don’t see her, her peers laugh and avoid her. Suddenly she has become a sign of shame in the school. Everyday is a challenge to make it to school, tired from looking after the little one the night before, the work studied does not stick… Her exhaustion is bigger than her effort to catch up, do the homework, and study for the tests.
Breasts filled with milk, back sore from recovering from childbirth. The doctor said she could return to school although she only gave birth 4 days ago. She has to keep studying, it’s a blessing that her mother is helping her look after the baby so that she can finish school. She wants to study; she wants it with all her might. She wants to be able to fulfil those dreams of becoming a pilot or a lawyer or an entrepreneur, but how will those dreams come true if she can’t make it through the school day.
She is only 16 and some would say its her fault, she wanted this, she chose to have sex, she got pregnant.
Young mothers in Namibia are now allowed to go back to school once they are declared medically fit and are able to ensure that the baby is being looked after at home. This law was passed to help young girls continue coming to school after childbirth and lessen the numbers of high school dropouts of teen moms.
During the lockdown in 2020 Namibia recorded its highest cases in teenage pregnancy, most of the pregnancies being with an adult. This is known as statutory rape which amounts to sexual coercion even in the absence of physical coercion. On top of that, most of the pregnancies also resulted from forced or coerced sex.
Although the school wants to give the best to the girls, they are forgotten or overlooked and sometimes transferred to the next class because of their age.
There are not enough Life Skills teachers to give the adequate support to the mom’s and there is no ideal set up in the schools whereby there is a school nurse, a school social worker and at least 2 Life Skill teachers. Having a set up with understaffed teachers and overpopulated classes, leaves the young mother forgotten.
However, she tries… She tries because she still makes it to her classes despite her tiredness, despite her insecurities and despite.
“We try not to look at their bellies, we worry if their bags are too heavy.” These are the words of a school principal in a government school in the Erongo region. Measures are made to try and assist the young mother; her pregnancy is not announced to her fellow peers and she is allowed to attend school until she has to give birth.
Due to lack of resources in schools and hospitals young mothers are not given the adequate training and information they need concerning the changes in their bodies and how to raise a child. Some have the benefit of their mothers being with them and helping them along, while some have to do it all on their own. A young mother reported not being allowed to cry during the delivery, another reported passing out, and another being hit by the nurses to keep her legs open. This is illegal and constitutes criminal harassment at the hands of medical personnel who’s duty is to serve and protect. Although this should be reported, young mothers are made to feel so ashamed, that they lack the confidence or the resources to hold these people accountable to their malpractice.
A young mother that was interviewed shared her fears of not being heard regarding what she wanted for her child to the point that her son was taken away from her under the guise that she could complete her studies.
They may be young but they are mothers and they love their children and want the best for their families. This has resulted in some leaving school so that they could give their child the love and attention that they needed. Isn’t that what a mother does? Sacrifice for the benefit of their child?
Its easy to say that the girls should stay in school and finish their education, but without the right support structures the girls spend their time in school worrying about the wellbeing of their children.
Dear young mother
How are you?
No, really; how are you?
I see you, I see the concern that you have for your baby, I hear the fear in your voice regarding how you will manage. You matter, your emotions are valid.
You aren’t the names they call you.
You are a fantastic mother, you are a child who deserves to be cared for, and you are strong for trying your best with what you have.
Next time you see a young mother (maybe the one whose body diverts glances away from her as she carries her books down the school corridor 4 days after giving birth) do not be so quick to judge, she is aware that she is a child herself trying her best to raise her own. Instead ask her how she is, how she truly is; because often, simply acknowledging someone is more powerful than we can know.
More about the writer:
Beatrice Adoma Schultz is an intrapreneur who has a deep love to see people grow, and thrive and has an uncanny flair for entrepreneurship. She has an Honours degree in Media; specializing in Public Relations and Visual Arts with a budding career in Fashion. She is a certified teacher and is passionate about education and training and is a co-founder and owner of a consulting company (Akoma Trading cc). Akoma Talks, which is a platform to motivate, inspire, support and positively influence women and society at large is her personal brain-child.
She is the Swakopmund Ambassador for Future Females, a global community that motivates, educates and inspires entrepreneurs as well as intrapreneurs. “I pride myself on being a conscious coach – knowledgeable in coaching teams on how to build better leaders, solidify workplace cohesion and integrate diversity more effectively into their departments and processes.”
Because of her personal and professional circumstances, she is able to build bridges between diverse ethnicities, social strata and male/female gendered environments in various spaces such as organisations, communities, and schools. She is analytical, an implementer of envisioned initiatives and believes in focusing activities to overall objectives.
She is involved in social activities that seek to impact communities in progressive ways. These include women empowerment, early childhood education, and capacity building amongst the youth. She is a great organizer and ensures all events are creative and results in maximum impact.
Her personality, work approach, motivation and charisma is inspirational and reflects the meaning of her name: bringer of joy!