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Reducing Girls' School Absences in Africa

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.A new study shows that simple, low-cost interventions can help teenage girls in Africa stay in school during their monthly periods.

Paul Montgomery of Oxford University in Britain led the study. He said women are a driving force of development across Africa. So it is important, he said, to keep girls in school.

One hundred twenty girls in Ghana took part in the study. Their average age was 16. They attended three secondary schools in urban areas and one in a rural area.In the study, girls at two of the schools received free sanitary pads and lessons on puberty. Their attendance increased by an average of six days during a 65-day school term.

The puberty lessons included information about personal care during menstruation. The girls also learned about the biology of their developing bodies and about pregnancy. At the third school, the girls received the lessons but not the free pads.

Attendance by these girls also improved about the same amount, over five months.At the fourth school the girls did not receive the pads or the lessons. That group showed no improvement in school attendance.

Paul Montgomery says the girls in the study had several reasons for missing school during their monthly bleeding. A majority expressed embarrassment about the changes in their bodies.

Paul Montgomery says the interventions might not only keep girls from missing school, but also reduce teen pregnancies. The Public Library of Science published the study in its journal PLOS One. A larger study is taking place in Uganda until 2015.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.I'm Mario Ritter.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 15Nov2012)