Jane Kelly presents at the International Maternal and Newborn Health Conference 2023

26 Jun 2023 | By CSSR Website
Jane Kelly Presenting at IMNHC
26 Jun 2023 | By CSSR Website

Dr. Jane Kelly presented at the International Maternal and Newborn Health Conference on 11 May 2023 on behalf of the HEY BABY research project team, part of the Adolescent Accelerators Research Hub.

The presentation, entitled “Investing in our future: supporting pregnant and mother learners' return to school”, discussed the research publication of the same name, co-authored by Chelsea Coakley, Janina Jochim, Abigail Ornellas, Lulama Sidloyi, Hlokoma Mangqalaza, Lucie Cluver, Elona Toska, and the HEY BABY team. 

Download the Slide Deck

The International Maternal Newborn Health Conference is a collaborative research conference that brings together global experts to highlight best practices for accelerating positive maternal and newborn health outcomes and to achieve the SDGs. The presentation was part of the “Adolescent Health: Accelerating Process toward 2030” session of the conference.



"In South Africa, one third of women have been pregnant during adolescence, with the last four years (2017-21) seeing a staggering increase of 48.7% in births amongst 10- to 14-year-olds and 17.9% amongst 15- to 19-year-olds. Adolescent motherhood can have a negative impact on the education, livelihoods, and health of adolescents and their children. Enabling adolescent mothers’ return to school is essential, given the profound impact that school dropout has on psychological, physical, social and economic health. Further, higher education levels are protective not only for adolescent mothers but also for their children. The education sector is well placed to respond to the support needs of adolescent mothers; this is recognised in the South African Department of Basic Education (DBE)’s Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools (2021) – with a positive vision for quality education, good health and well-being, and gender equality. Achieving policy goals requires clear evidence and research on how best to operationalise and implement them. It is against this backdrop that our research team – co-led by the Universities of Cape Town and Oxford – was approached by the DBE to undertake research to inform the implementation of their Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools, and specifically the management component. We undertook a collaborative and systematic research project to conceptualise what pregnant and mother learners need, in order to return to school successfully. We adopted a three-pronged approach to this project: reviewing the latest evidence from existing reviews and South African interventions; conducting quantitative analysis of data from a longitudinal cohort study with over 1,000 adolescent mothers and their children; and conducting participatory research activities with young people with recent or current secondary schooling, pregnancy, and parenting experience. Drawing on findings from this three-pronged approach, we propose that supporting pregnant and mother learners’ return to school should incorporate four inter-related components: (1) strengthening multi-stakeholder school structures, (2) case management, (3) peer-based support, and (4) strong partnerships and referral mechanisms. Implementing these recommendations at a school level – especially in resource-constrained settings – is urgently needed but may be difficult. While many of our suggestions can be integrated into existing services and support structures, their feasibility and acceptability – both for education stakeholders and learners themselves – should be explored, ideally across different school settings. To assess effectiveness and identify ways to refine the interventions, each adaptation should involve strong monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, implementation-science research, as well as costing analysis to support scale-up."




HEY BABY (Helping Empower Youth Brought up in Adversity with their Babies and Young children) is a collaborative research study examining protective pathways to promote resilience amongst adolescent parents and their children in South Africa. In 2016-2017, it became clear that HIV-positive adolescent mothers were struggling to disclose their status to our research team, dropping out of HIV care, and more likely to be defaulting from ART. We have developed a sub-study including HIV-positive and HIV-uninfected adolescent mothers and their children. Visit their website to learn more at www.heybaby.org.za