Tanzanian’s Teen mothersheave a sigh of relief and set to enjoy their right to education
By Constance Ndeleko
Dodoma 24/11/21; Tanzanian government will now allow all students who dropped out of school due to various reasons including pregnancy to return to school in a formal system after giving birth, says Prof Joyce Ndalichako while briefing reporters.
The African continent has the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world, according to the United Nations. Every year, thousands of girls become pregnant at the time when they should be learning. Adolescent girls who have early and unintended pregnancies face many social and financial barriers to continuing with formal education.
The policy that deterred girls from going back to school was first introduced in the 1960s, subjecting girls to mandatory pregnancy test with a risk of being arrested when found pregnant. This was a violation to their right to access basic quality education and a discrimination against girls.
Although all AU countries have made human rights commitments to protect pregnant girls and adolescent mothers’ right to education, in practice adolescent mothers are treated very differently depending on which country they live in.
This conflicting law in Tanzania was originally passed in 2002, reinforced by late President John Magufuli in 2017 barring pregnant girls from attending regular school.
The Late President Magufuli reasoned that girls would be too unfocused to concentrate on their studies after giving birth, and their company would be a bad influence on other girls. On the other side, men who impregnated girls were warned of a lengthy jail term so that they can put their energies to good use.
“In my administration, as long as I am president … no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behavior to permeate our primary and secondary schools … never.”LATE PRESIDENT MAGUFULI
Despite different efforts and existing regional and international legal instrument existing to ensure equal access to education and opportunities the government then was still reluctant on the issue and flexing the rules.
All girls have a right to education regardless of their pregnancy, marital or motherhood status. The right of pregnant—and sometimes married—girls to continue their education has evoked emotionally charged discussions across African Union member states in recent years
In retrospect, November 2020, Regional women rights advocates then went the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to lift Tanzania’s ban on learning and school re-entry of teen mothers and pregnant girls.
They dissented that preventing pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from attending public school denies them access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty. “It exposes them to additional human rights violations including forced child marriage, FGM, Sexual and labor exploitation.”
Equality Now Africa region Director Ms Faiza Mohamed then said that the African Court was the last resort to restoring the girls’ rights to education as their three-year advocacy since 2017 has borne no fruits.
UNFPA had also highlighted that one in four Tanzanian girls aged 15-19 is either pregnant or has given birth.(2020)
In 2013, all the countries that make up the African Union (AU) adopted Agenda 2063, a continent-wide economic and social development strategy. Under this strategy, African governments committed to build Africa’s “human capital,” which it terms “its most precious resource,” through sustained investments in education, including “elimination of gender disparities at all levels of education.”
Two years after the adoption of Agenda 2063, African governments joined other countries in adopting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a development agenda whose focus is to ensure that “no one is left behind,” including a promise to ensure inclusive and quality education for all.
African governments have also adopted ambitious goals to end child marriage, introduce comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education, and address the very high rates of teenage pregnancy across the continent that negatively affect girls’ education.
Many other factors contribute to thousands of adolescent mothers not continuing formal education. High among them is the lack of awareness about re-entry policies among communities, girls, teachers, and school officials that girls can and should go back to school. Girls are most often deeply affected by financial barriers, the lack of support, and high stigma in communities and schools alike.
Gender equality and construction of a more just and equitable world for girls cannot be achieved without ensuring all girls have access education.