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Nearly 30% of adolescent girls in Zambia become pregnant by the age of 18 according to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS 2018). This high rate of teenage pregnancy remains a significant concern and possess major development challenges. When adolescent girls fall pregnant, they drop out of school, this reduces the opportunities to actualize their full potential and entangles them in a perpetual circle of poverty and inequality.

However, through access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) coupled with the re-entry policy implemented in the Zambian education system, many adolescent girls can now reclaim their potential and dignity.  

Hellen Kunda, is a grade 12 pupil at Ibolelo Secondary School in Serenje District. She fell pregnant at the age of 17 while she was in grade 10 and immediately dropped out of school. She was at the brink of forfeiting her potential and future like many other girls. However, through interaction with her friends who attend the School CSE club, she had access to information on the re-entry policy and was supported to return to school. Hellen, is now in her final grade of secondary school and aspires to become a medical doctor.

 I want to become a doctor when I grow up and use my role as a doctor to also sensitize girls and boys about puberty, teenage pregnancy and HIV. – Hellen

Ibolelo Secondary School is a public secondary school classified as a rural education institution. Many learners live in the outskirts of the District, often covering long distances to get to school every day (up to 60km); while others are forced to rent small houses in the school vicinity where they fend for themselves. As a result, many learners often engage in informal work to earn money for food and rent, while female learners become vulnerable to transactional sex, resulting in unplanned pregnancies and STIs. Furthermore, due to stigma, many learners who either become pregnant or infected with HIV often drop out of school.

With funding support from the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), UNFPA through its implementing partner SAfAIDS has supported the school to enhance the delivery of CSE. In 2020, the programme supported 2 teachers at the school to participate in CSE trainings, who in turn cascaded the orientation to all the teachers in the school.

Through this programme support, the school is now making significant strides to link CSE with demand and uptake of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services among learners, thus preventing unplanned pregnancies, child marriage and HIV infections. Over the last one year, key progress has been made. Notably, in 2020, 13 teenage pregnancies were recorded, among which 3 leaners returned to school after delivery. However, in 2021, the number of teenage pregnancies recorded reduced significantly to 5, among which 4 learners returned to school after delivery.