A North Belfast secondary school has opened a creche which will be available to pupils, as well as staff and the local community.
The facilities have been included in a state-of-the-art extension to the Belfast Model School for Girls and are to be used by both the school and the community.
Funding for the facilities has come from a variety of different Governmental departments under the leadership of the Department of Education, although the creche will operate on a self-funding basis.
Rev David McIlveen from the Free Presbyterian Church said he is saddened young people in Northern Ireland are faced with balancing the demands of parenthood with education. “I think there are better ways of handling teenage pregnancies than a creche in a school because it could become a distraction for the young mother or other pupils in the school,” he said.
“This opens up the subject of teenage pregnancies and we are seeing an increase in the number of young girls becoming pregnant. We have got to the stage where people are almost encouraged to enter a relationship at a very early stage without recognising responsibilities. The provision of a creche in a school very clearly demonstrates the responsibilities.
“Of course there is a much better future for those who have an education but we have to be very careful. I wouldn’t like this to become the norm. People must not rush to condemn this but we must recognise teenage pregnancies are a problem and think about how we can address the problem.” Jim Rodgers, former chairman of the Belfast Education and Library Board, welcomed the implementation of a creche at the school. He said it will help girls who have become pregnant at a young age to continue with their education and subsequently support themselves and their child.
“We cannot exclude young girls from education simply because they have a child,” he said.
“We have an exceptionally high rate of teenage pregnancies in Northern Ireland and right across the UK and we have to deal with this issue.
“We can’t just bury our heads in the sand.
“We have to be realistic and I believe providing the creche is the way forward.
“Some of these girls are getting pregnant as young as 14 and it would be terrible if they were just to drop out of school.”