Dar es Salaam. Stakeholders yesterday reacted on the statement issued by Home Affairs minister, Mr Mwigulu Nchemba, who warned civil society organisations (CSOs) advocating teen mother’s education and homosexuality, saying they faced deregistration.
While Tanzania Ending Child Marriage Network (TECMN) said it would like to maintain non-confrontational collaborative partnership with the government, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) said the government should stop intimidating CSOs who are undertaking legal and constitutional activities in the country.
Speaking during a fundraiser at a Roman Catholic Parish in Dodoma yesterday, Mr Nchemba said President Magufuli issued directives which should simply be implemented, saying there were no room for debate or argument, vowing to order deportation of foreign nationals engaging in advocacy of certain issues.
Speaking to The Citizen, TECMN chairperson, Ms Valerie Msoka, said her network would respect the government directives. However, she added, her organisation will seek new approaches to ensure rights of children are advocated and protected without spoiling the longstanding relationship between CSOs and the government.
“We want to continue working with the government without losing our focus. We will adopt other means such as research to address the magnitude and impacts of the problem to girl learners in the country. We acknowledge the government is there and should be respected,” she said.
Ms Msoka said TECMN will follow and adhere to government demands without compromising rights of children, both boys and girls especially those from rural populations. She said they would collaborate with the government to establish the right system which will enable teen mothers to pursue their education dreams after delivery.
“President Magufuli hinted about taking the girls to Vocational Education and Training (Veta) signifying how aware he is on education of the girls after delivery. Therefore, we will work in the same lines to formulate better systems to provide them with education,” she said.
THRDC national coordinator, Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa said CSOs don’t interfere with government activities, urging the government stop obstructing them from implementing their legal and constitutional obligations for which they were registered.
“Why should anyone threaten to de-register a CSO registered to advocate education of the children, especially the girl-child, for fulfilling its advocacy responsibilities?” he questioned.
According to Mr Olengurumwa, children’s rights to education shouldn’t be compromised, citing the example of people who resume learning after a jail term.
An education advocate, Ms Mwanahamisi Salim, said the debate on teen mothers was important for the nation to find a consensus on an education system that would work for the benefit of the present and future generations.
“Citizens have the right to debate and advocate various issues. Whenever there are two opposing sides, they should bring out their arguments and allow citizens to debate as the right process to find common understanding the issue at hand. Restricting advocacy means consensus process has been prohibited, and that isn’t a healthy development,” she said.
She added that Tanzania would only realise industrialisation and become a middleclass economy by honouring education. She further noted that sidelining girls would push them into the poverty cycle which will beleaguer them throughout their lives.
Speaking during the fundraiser, Mr Nchemba said the government neither entertained homosexuality, teen pregnancies nor maternity leave to school learners and that those advocating such issues being part of children rights should remember that the government provides such rights through provision of free basic education.
“The President is providing free education to all children without segregation… Nowadays nobody has the fees excuse when they don’t send their children to school,” he said.
The project to construct the church is projected to cost Sh2.6 billion.
Last week, HakiElimu urged the government to formulate a legal framework that would allow teenage mothers to resume studies after giving birth, saying underage sex was among the factors that made schoolgirls fail to finish their studies.
Launching a countrywide campaign titled “Ondoa Vikwazo, Asome” translated as “Remove Obstacles, Let the Girl-child Access Education”, HakiElimu executive director John Kallaghe said it focused at raising public awareness on enabling girls to access education.
He said HakiElimu wants to see the government and other stakeholders take reasonable measures to improve the country’s education system to ensure girls and boys enjoy equal access quality education.
According to him, statistics showed that in 2015, at least 69,067 primary and secondary school girls were out of school due to different reasons, including early pregnancy, absenteeism and death because of unsafe delivery.