“Re-entry policy promoting immorality among children” – Kabwe Deputy Mayor
Girl Child Education: An Open Letter to Deputy Mayor Of Kabwe McDonald Mwamba
I recently read an article dated 30th June, 2015 in which you were quoted as having requested for the abolishment of the re-entry policy that allows girls to return to school after falling pregnant. Mr. Deputy Mayor I must say that as a young Zambian woman who has been fortunate enough to receive an education, I was and continue to be disappointed such remarks coming from a man of your stature- a leader in the community.
In the article you are quoted as having appealed to the government to “revisit” this policy which you claim, rather conclusively, has contributed to an increase in school drop-out rates, child marriages and promoted immorality. You went on further to prescribe the abolishment of the policy as a way of restoring the true value of education. Now Sir, let me explain what I find wrong with your reasoning and subsequent conclusion.
Firstly, the article provides no statistics to back your argument. I am currently unaware of any comprehensive research that has been carried out in Zambia to assess the effectiveness of the re-entry policy on teenage pregnancy, high school drop out rates and child marriage. If it exists please share it with the public as this would be an objective way of presenting your argument. I find it hard to believe that teenagers are engaging in sexual activity at a higher rate simply because they can now go back to school. It does not follow that a child will engage in sexual activity with the knowledge that they can still go back to school being central to their decision.
Secondly, as a civic leader I am sure you are well aware of the economic and social difficulties girls and women face in accessing education. Although Zambia has made strides at achieving gender equality in access to education in line with our Millennium Development Goals, there continues to be a parity in the number of educated males compared to females. To add another obstacle to this course would only be retrogressive at best. In effect, what you are communicating to the public through your statement is that when a girl gets pregnant she should be sent away and never have the opportunity to complete her education. By doing this, we have relegated the girl to the margins of society. Without access to secondary education she will not be able to further her education at the tertiary level. I need not explain how this will negatively impact her employment prospects in the future. What this also means is she will not have the means to raise her child in a proper environment. The burden of raising this child will in most cases fall solely on the single teenage mother, with little to no support from the boy responsible for impregnating her, while he continues with his education. Now if we scale this outcome we have hundreds of young mothers with no Grade 12 certificate who cannot go to college, cannot find proper jobs and therefore cannot take care of themselves or their children. With little access to economic resources such young women, still full of potential, will continue to fall prey to societal abuses.
With regards to the issue of immorality, I would like to add that one of the biggest obstacles to achieving lower rates of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS infection in countries like Zambia is the lack of effective sex education. I think it is time that we as a country stop paying a blind eye to what is happening in front of us. We need to be discussing the reasons behind teenage pregnancy beginning at a domestic level with parents taking up leadership on this issue. A child who grows up in a home were the value of education is upheld, and where proper guidance is given with regards to sexuality is in a better position to make wise decisions over his or her own future. We cannot depend on a government policy or lack-thereof to raise our children. If indeed the school drop-out rates due to pregnancy have increased, we need to access the cultural shifts that are occurring and adjust our responses according. We cant continue to use morality on women at the detriment of their own progress when there are other variables that can address the issue of teenage pregnancy. Women should not always be imprisoned in presumptuous judeo-moralisms.
Mr. Mwamba, as a product of women’s education, I am a firm believer in the benefits of allowing girls to complete their education because education of women impacts generations to come. My position is that this is a policy that should not be shed away without proper consideration. While it may have its limitations in terms of implementation and effectiveness, to simply write it off would spell a life of poverty for many young women like myself as well as their children. As such, I urge you as well as other leaders to seriously consider your position on this issue and ensure that the necessary research is carried out to improve the outcomes of the re-entry policy.