Raising the Next Generation of Young Women in STEM – a Missed Opportunity

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF10 Sub-theme: Promoting Equity and Inclusion // There is an explosion of attempts by government agencies responsible for education, development partners and civil society in a bid to increase the enrollment of girls and young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related courses at all levels of education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In the face of all these efforts, however, school dropouts are on the ascendancy, mostly as a result of unintended pregnancies suffered by adolescent girls and young women. In most cases, the onset of unintended pregnancies constitutes a permanent blockage of the educational ambitions of the girls involved. How can this community of practice, in their attempt to raise the next generation of young women in STEM, ensure that unfortunate girls and young women who fall victim to unintended pregnancies do not get left out of the opportunities available for participation in STEM education? This paper examines the effects of unintended pregnancies on the uptake of STEM education by girls and young women. // Methods: we conducted a systematic review of program reports and publications from government ministries, Civil Society Organizations and United Nation Agencies. The reports reviewed covered a five year period from 2016 to 2020 and focused mainly on programs aimed at increasing the enrollment of girls and young women into STEM education at various levels of education. // Results: almost all programs aimed at increasing girls’ enrollment in STEM were standalone, without considering the other factors, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), that determine the enrollment and retention of girls in school. In Ghana alone, more than 100,000 girls dropped out of school as a result of unintended pregnancy in 2020 alone. // Conclusion: there is a missed opportunity to “leave no one behind” in the attempt of today’s community of practice to raise the next generation of girls and young women to drive innovations in Science, Technology, engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as many of them are lost to unintended pregnancies and are left out of efforts aimed at encouraging them to take up STEM education. We recommend that programs targeted in this regard should be integrated with activities that address other factors, such as SRHR, which affect the general enrollment and retention of girls and young women in school. // Paper ID 1119

Equality,Learner Retention,Women and Girls' Education,Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),Gender,Open and Distance Learning (ODL)