Pregnant in the classroomOne of the hot issues that surfaced during the last presidential election in the United States revolved around the pregnant teenage daughter of Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for the vice presidency in 2008. After giving birth, Palin’s daughter, Bristol, graduated from high school and recently came into the spotlight again when she played a pregnant teenager on a TV drama. Although teen pregnancy is not welcomed in the United States, schools there do not throw out students because they are pregnant.
In order to encourage students to stay in school despite being pregnant, schools in the U.S. even offer special classes and child care facilities. These support programs can be seen not only in the U.S., but in many other countries as well. There are two reasons for this. One is the notion that a student’s right to an education is a basic human right that needs to be protected.
The other reason is that providing these students with support measures reduces welfare costs. If an unwed teenage mother gives up school, there is a greater possibility that she will fall into poverty and not be able to get a job, meaning she’ll likely turn to welfare. This cycle may also extend to the child as well.
The reality in Korea is significantly different. The moment that a student’s pregnancy is known in the school, she is immediately forced to drop out. If she wants to continue her education, the only way out is abortion.
However, Kim Su-hyeon, 19, who got pregnant last year as a senior in high school, decided that she would give up neither her child nor her education. After she was forced to drop out of school, her mother brought the case to the attention of the National Human Rights Commission. The commission announced that it is discriminatory for any school to force a student to drop out because she is pregnant. Kim was able to return to school, graduate and also give birth. She is now a mother and a freshman in college.
There can’t be enough emphasis on the fact that teenage pregnancy is not an ideal situation. It is crucial to prevent it as much as possible. To do this, schools need to strengthen their sex education programs. Also, in order to lower the rate of irresponsible sexual intercourse among teens, a policy to provide child support from unwed fathers must be pursued and measures to support unwed mothers must be planned.
Thousands of teens become pregnant in Korea each year. The government’s present policy is to provide 100,000 won ($88.61) each month to unwed mothers. However, there is no better support than to allow them to continue their education.