Tests, trials and triumphs of an adolescent mother’s journey to education in Jamaica

Being pregnant at age 15 is the toughest test Stacy Ann Subani had to overcome in her lifetime. 

‘My family was very disappointed when they found out I was pregnant,’ said Stacy Ann. ‘Abortion was not acceptable to my mother, so for a while, I had no idea what I was going to do.’ The once outgoing youth activist lost all hope.  

In Jamaica, girls and young women who are pregnant are not allowed to remain in the formal school system. At four months pregnant, Stacy Ann had to watch her peers go to school while she stayed home to nurture her growing stomach. 

‘Becoming pregnant as a teenager means everyone expects the girl to drop out of  school, have more children and live off the welfare system programme,’ she explained. ‘I didn’t want to be that girl.’

‘Then my aunt and older sister told me about the Women’s Centre and ensured that I registered.’ According to Stacy Ann, her chance to live above societal expectations came after she enrolled in the Programme for Adolescent Mothers, at the Women’s Centre for Jamaica Foundation (WCJF). 

The WCJF provides pregnant adolescent girls, like Stacy Ann, and parenting young women who had to leave school, with continuing education, counselling and personal development sessions.

The WCJF provided Stacy Ann with a second chance at education. A beaming Stacy Ann said that the Women’s Centre changed her life. She credits the comprehensive instruction she received at the Women’s Centre, including learning to rise above the stigma associated with adolescent pregnancy.

‘Going back to regular school was extremely difficult. Students who knew that I had been pregnant said a lot of mean things about me. But I remembered how the counsellor at the WCJF encouraged us not to see ourselves as victims but as victors who should use education to create opportunities for our children.’

‘I also remembered several successful past students who came back [to the WCJF] and spoke about their experience as adolescent mothers. Whenever I felt like giving up, I’d remember that they had been in my position before and are now doing well’, she shared.

Many young women who participated in the Programme learned to leverage their experience at the WCJF. They completed their studies and have become a mathematics teacher, a medical technologist and a school founder, among others. The Women’s Centre enabled these young women to create a better life for themselves and their children through continuing education.

Stacy Ann completed her tenure at the Women’s Centre and enrolled at Jose Marti Technical High School. There she successfully graduated from secondary education at age 19 with high grades.

She also completed two one-year professional courses at the University of the West Indies Open Campus. These courses qualified her for admission to the University of West Indies, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Library and Information Studies.

‘It took me six years to complete a four year course. But I wasn’t fazed by it’, Stacy Ann recalled. ‘I worked part time and went to school part time while taking care of my daughter. It was a rough journey, but I learned how to manage my time and work according to my goals.’

At age 27, Stacy Ann works at the University of the West Indies in the Estate Management Department and intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Marketing or Human Resource Management.

The Women’s Centre for Jamaica Foundation received the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education in 2018 for its work providing adolescent girls and young women in Jamaica a second chance at education.

The WCJF is a 40-year-old institution operating under the Ministry of Gender, Entertainment and Sport (MCGES) of Jamaica. WCJF supports the reintegration of young women into the formal school system after the birth of their child.

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