Don’t condemn pregnant schoolgirls to poverty

Sunday June 25 2017

 

By TheCitizen

The fate is sealed for the time being. President John Magufuli on Wednesday declared that schoolgirls, who become pregnant will not be allowed back into public schools after giving birth.

He dismissed the whole idea of allowing teen mothers back to school as a foreign concept championed by non-governmental organisations and other people, who do not wish Tanzania well.

He strongly spoke against entertaining the idea that will encourage girls to engage in premarital sex.

He told such girls to join vocational training colleges or seek loans to invest in small-scale businesses.

President Magufuli warned that those, who impregnated schoolgirls should be jailed as the law stipulates.

Unexpectedly, his audience in Bagamoyo, Coast Region, where he was opening the 64-kilometre Msata-Bagamoyo Road, cheered, contrary to weeks before, when some MPs and activists spoke bitterly against denying teen mothers a chance to resume studies after delivery.

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The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s campaign pledge during the 2015 General Election was to re-admit such girls.

Section 52(i)(ii) of the 2015-20 election manifesto provides for a second chance to education for schoolgirls, who become victims of early pregnancy. In February 2016, the ministry of Education and Vocational Training issued guidelines on how to enable pregnant schoolgirls resume their studies.

During a debate on the 2017/18 budget estimates of the ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training in Parliament last month, the Social Services Committee and the Opposition urged the government to allow teen mothers back to school to break the vicious cycle of poverty. They maintained that expelling pregnant schoolgirls was condemning many of them and their families to poverty.

3,700 girls drop out of school annually

The Basic Education Statistics 2016 indicated that at least 3,439 secondary school students and 251 pupils dropped out of school in 2015. A study titled “Adolescents in Tanzania”, which was commissioned by Unicef, cites Tanzania as having one of the highest adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the world.

It warns that adolescent mothers with less education also have less opportunity and capacity to contribute to economic growth and development. It adds that women, who begin childbearing as adolescents and their children are therefore more likely to be among the poorest in Tanzanian society.

With the debate officially closed, but embers of disappointment fanned and Tanzania is likely to continue having more teenage mothers including schoolgirls, what should be done?

Creating an environment that will prevent schoolgirls from becoming pregnant is the best option, but making it impervious to sexual predators is tough. Still it is good to find a way to fight the menace. Expelling pregnant schoolgirls shatters their dream of being educated.

It also hampers efforts of attaining one ofthe Sustainable Development Goals on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. We shouldn’t condemn pregnant schoolgirls to illiteracy and poverty.