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VP Sara: Pregnancy should not hinder teenage girls from finishing studies

Pregnancy shouldn't be a reason for teenage girls who dropped out of school to not finish their studies because the government is providing ways for them to continue their education, Vice President Sara Duterte said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event in celebration of International Women's Day, Duterte recalled her visit to Pikit National High School in North Cotabato, where only 63% of learners were found to be attending classes.

The Department of Education secretary said that many of the female students become pregnant in addition to being afraid of insurgency.

While acknowledging that sexual abstinence is the best option for them, she encouraged the students who are sexually active to go to doctors for advice and, if they get pregnant, to get prenatal care.

Duterte then stressed that pregnancy should not hinder teenage girls from continuing their education.

"You go to your principal, [and] you ask your principal, ‘What can you do for me? I am pregnant, but I want to continue my studies,’" she said.

Duterte said that teenage mothers may enroll in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) or get skills training.

"DepEd is making sure that teenage mothers who have dropped out of formal school to take care of their children are provided with a second chance to finish [their] basic education and pursue their dreams through the Alternative Learning System or pursue technical skills training through our TESDA programs," she said. 

In January, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said the number of pregnancies among teenagers aged 10 to 14 in 2022 was more than 2,000.

Meanwhile, pregnancy rates among Filipinos aged 15 to 19 decreased from 8.6% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2022, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Duterte also underscored the importance of advocating for an inclusive digital education that would allow women and girls to overcome inequalities affecting their development and involvement in the community. 

She said that it would have been better if there were more women in leadership positions. 

"Naniniwala rin ako na kapag ang kababaihan sa isang komunidad ay nabigyan ng pagkakataon maging produktibo, kapag sila ay nabigyan ng edukasyon, at nagkaroon ng kapangyarihan ng kaalaman, at kapag sila ay nahasa na mamuno, kaya nilang baguhin ang mukha ng kanilang komunidad," Duterte said.

(I also believe that when women in a community are given the opportunity to be productive, are given education, have the power of knowledge, and are trained to lead, they can change their communities.) —VBL, GMA Integrated News