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Strengthening uptake of Life Skills Education is step in the right direction towards eliminating early and unintended pregnancies among adolescents

“It’s a great opportunity for adolescents as it enables them to prevent some of the challenges they face such as unintended pregnancies,” stated Hlobsile Makhubu commenting on the importance of providing Life Skills Education for adolescents.

Hlobisile is from Ngudzeni, a rural area in the Shiselweni region. In 2018, her dream of becoming a teacher hit a stand still as she dropped out of school to wait the arrival of her son, now 3 years old.

She believes sexual and reproductive health information dissemination programs such as the comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) termed Life Skills Education (LSE) in Eswatini is a necessary tool for equipping youth beyond convention subjects provided in schools.

“I would have loved having such a program in my school,” Makhubu added.

Despite staying home for some time while taking care of her baby, her dream of returning to school still stands.

“My biggest desire right now is to go back to school and complete my learning. By so doing, I would be a step closer to my dream of becoming a qualified teacher,” she narrated.

To ensure that the LSE program has a buy in from school administrators, the Ministry of Education, Guidance and Counseling with support from UNFPA hosted an orientation for head teachers and deputy headteachers from high schools providing LSE in the country. The activity which was implemented in phases where a group would attend a 2-day session, commenced on Monday 7 June 2021 with high school head teachers from the Lubombo region. The orientation included a wide range of topics including teenage pregnancy prevention, psychosocial support, COVID_19 prevention.

Guidance and Counselling Director Lindiwe Dlaminioun stated that the orientation was in part a refresher exercise on legislative provisions on life skills education in Eswatini. Dlamini further mentioned that it was important for adolescents to learn life skills as it equipped them with critical skills to enable them overcome certain circumstances in life.

“Life skills encompasses a lot. It assists children to have an understanding of social and developmental issues and also raises their awareness on gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and and others. All these are important as for the child to grow up well," explained the director.

UNFPA's Dr Bongani Dlamini echoed the Director's word and further described the Life Skills Education program as a social vaccines whose provision had a potential of changing many things. 

"Life skills education is a social vaccine we can use to erradicate many social mishaps in society such as gender based violence and teenage pregnancies."

According to the Education Survey conducted by the Ministry of Education between the years 2015 and 2018, about 300 girls dropping out of school annualy due to pregnancy in Eswatini with a total of 1,288 girls missing out on education due to pregnancy in the aforemention 4 year period.

Zwakele Dlamini from the Ministry of Education presented on the extent of teenage pregnancy on learning. Citing a recent assessment done by the Ministry on selected schools, Dlamini mentioned that Pregnancy was among the leading causes for dropouts in schools. Dlamini further highlighted some of the reasons for dropping out which include absconding, family reasons and school fees.

“There is a need for strengthening the provision of life skills education in order to cut down the number of children lost in the school system,” she stated.

Appreciating the activity, Mr Hlanze shared that LSE also helps in making children understand issues of growing up such as mentruation. He further called for strengthening of access to menstrual hygiene commodities for all girls.

"These commodities are essential as they help girls learn with ease, therefore they must be made available to all adolescent girls," Hlanze said.

Also sending his appreciation was Mr Dube, who stated that provision of psychosocial support for both teachers and children was important.

“At times the problems reported by the children may trigger the teachers’ emotional breakdown due to similar past experiences of their own. Therefore, providing psychosocial support services to teachers is equally important,” explained Dube.

Zodwa Mamba from the Lubombo Region's Guidance office noted that the provision of psychosocial support services was critical and no one should be left behind.

"The provision of psychosocial support requires a holistic approach  as the services which meet the child's diverse needs; social, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental, are provided by different people," Mamba concluded.