5 November 2012

Tanzania: Legislators Divided Over Readmitting 'Mother' Students

Photo: Eric Draper
Former U.S. President George W. Bush visits with students in a classroom in Arusha, Tanzania (file photo).

MEMBERS of Parliament have been divided over the issue of reinstating girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy after they give birth.

A cross-section of legislators has proposed that the girls be allowed to continue with their studies after delivery but others were against the idea because it will encourage teenage pregnancies.

The current education does not allow for girls in primary and secondary schools to return to school after they drop out to give birth.

Former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, Mrs Margaret Sitta (Special Seats-CCM) was among the MPs who were vocal in supporting the idea, saying most of the girls are from poor families and therefore they should be accorded an opportunity to complete their education.

"Most of these girls hail from poor families and they study in difficult conditions," an emotionally charged Mrs Sitta, also Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Community Development, said.Adding; "The case is different for girls from affluent families who are enrolled in private schools and continue from where they left. We should not blame the girls because what they undergo is due to problems in our societies."

She attributed incidences of early pregnancies for girls in schools to hardships they encounter while studying as well as inducements from some irresponsible men.The MP, who was also at one time the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, gave her views during a workshop on gender concepts and its importance for women development and empowerment, facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

She was eager for an education policy that would allow the girls to be allowed re-entry into schools, noting that there are a number of countries in Africa which allow girls to continue with education after delivering.She observed that a commission chaired by then Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Ms Mwamtumu Mahiza, formed to examine the matter had recommended that the girls should be allowed back to classrooms but only after a policy is in place.

Speaking earlier, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, Ms Sophia Simba, was however contradictory while making contributions at the workshop when she stated that teachers who were interviewed by the commission were against the idea."According to feedback from the commission, teachers said they could not teach children-mothers, however the government is still considering readmitting the girls to schools. However, as we speak the matter is now under the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training," she said.

Special Seats MP, Ms Suzan Lyimo (CHADEMA), also supported the idea, saying women have historically been denied access to education.However, in a varying school of thought, Nkenge MP, Ms Assumpter Mshama, suggested that girls who get pregnant while in school should not be re-admitted and study in same classes with those who are yet to undergo the same experience.

"I suggest an alternative training and education for girls with child/children, we will not be fair by mixing them in the same class," she charged.Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services, Mr Juma Nkamia (Kondoa South- CCM), who chaired proceedings at the workshop, said the subject was very sensitive and needed to be addressed in a broad spectrum.

The workshop was attended by MPs from about six standing parliamentary committees and it is part of Legislature Support Project 2011-2015, implemented by the Parliament of Tanzania supported by UNDP.

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