The Non-Governmental Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) has noted with sadness the retrogressive pronouncement by Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli on the Re-entry policy of girls that fall pregnant while in school.
President Magufuli at a public rally in Chalinze town in Tanzania recently, said girls who got pregnant should stay away from school even after giving birth. He said by getting pregnant the girls had chosen parenting over schooling and thus they should stay home and cater for their children.
With due respect to the Tanzanian Head of State, NGOCC finds his statement retrogressive. To the contrary, the education Re-entry policy should be encouraged not only in Tanzania but in the entire African continent because it helps in the sustainable empowerment process of girls and women. Throughout the developed world, teenage pregnancy is more common among young people who have been disadvantaged in childhood and by societal low expectations of education for girls. In addition, poverty is both a cause and a consequence of teenage pregnancy. While some of these young girls get pregnant because of their socio-economic status, their situation is worsened if they are not taken back to school.
Education is clearly the one thing that can break the cycle of teenage pregnancy. It is important therefore, that the Re-entry policy should be encouraged for the young girls. We hope that the leadership in Tanzania will re-think its position on the Re-entry policy so that girls that fall prey in these unfortunate circumstances can have the opportunity to continue with school. This will also be in line with the principles of universal law that states that once a right has been given it cannot be taken away, because Tanzania had a Re-entry policy, which has now been banned.
There is also need to note that for a girl to fall pregnant, a male is involved. Banishing girls who fall pregnant from going back to school would be blaming the girl alone for the act excluding the boy or man who is responsible for the pregnancy.
As an organization that is committed to fighting gender inequality, we urge the Zambian government to scale up its efforts in supporting our own Educational Re-entry Policy by providing adequate budgetary allocation to cater for the required social support services to mitigate against a variety of teenage school mothers’ plight. Realizing the benefits that come with girl-child education, the Re-entry Policy is one sure way with which Zambia will fight the feminization of poverty.
We further would like to take the opportunity to advice parents to educate both the girl and boy children on the negative effects of teenage pregnancy. We also urge the Zambian society at all levels to take stern measures against boys and men who take advantage of the vulnerability of girls, whether in school or out of school, as it is a societal problem that requires all stakeholders to work together.