Yes, we can!
“Our A is so cute with such a white face, no? She tells me that what she wants to do here the most is study really hard.”
On the morning of August 23, 15-year-old A, a third-year middle school student, was bashful as she introduced herself in jeans and a white t-shirt after being introduced by Lee Chan-mi, a social worker.
That was the scene in class on the first day of operation for the Narae Alternative School (나래대안학교), the first alternative educational institute for unmarried students in the entire nation. It was a time for them to see one another’s faces and introduce the school members sitting with them.
The students in the first day’s class included A and one other, a first-year high school student. The two attended regular schools until it was found they were pregnant. The students now receive regular lessons here, and when they graduate they will receive diplomas from their original schools.
The Seoul Office of Education (서울시교육청) chose Ae Ran Won (애란원), an organization for unmarried mothers, to be the site of the education facility, and the Narae School now operates from the same building and protects the educational rights of unmarried mothers.
On August 23 the Ministry of Science Education, and Technology (교육과학기술부) published a report, titled 학생 미혼모 실태조사 연구, according to which there are 73 unmarried mothers living in the 35 facilities for them nationwide and 85% of them are not attending school. Many of them were forced to drop out when their schools discovered their pregnancies or else put their schoolwork on hold to give birth and take care of their babies.
17-year-old B, a second-year high school student who sat in on a class at the Narae School and hopes to attend, has the same situation. In May her school forced her to drop out when it discovered she was pregnant. “The other students will be harmed,” was the reason.
Due to give birth in December, B said, “I guess I would have had to study by myself and just get a GED, so I’m extremely happy there is this place where I can graduate and a diploma from my old school… my dream is to study hard and become a hair designer.”
The unmarried mothers who enter the Narae School live in Ae Ran Won and study five subjects (Korean, English, math, social studies, and science) for two to three hours per day, and then take courses in preparation for parenthood and vocational licenses. Ae Ran Won contains a nursery and after givign birth the mothers can study while living with their babies. After giving birth they may go back to their original schools if their health permits and if the school accepts them.
Seoul and Incheon are the only areas with education institutes for unmarried mothers. The Ministry plans to have the 16 city and provincial offices of education each establish at least one such institute next year.
Of course there is no such facility for the miserable screw-up fathers, who are not expelled and will graduate as if nothing happened.