8 November 2012

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Seeks to Readmit Pregnant Schoolgirls

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

Dodoma — REVISION of the Education and Vocational Training Policy will among other things put into consideration readmission to classrooms of schoolgirls who drop out due to pregnancies, the government said.

A committee formed by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training is currently engaging stakeholders to come up with a revised policy, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (Regional Administration and Local Government), Mr Kassim Majaliwa, told the National Assembly.

The deputy minister said the government is considering putting in place an arrangement to go well with the policy that would allow the girls to continue with education after delivering.

Mr Majaliwa, while responding to a basic question by Special Seats MP, Ms Maria Hewa (CCM), noted however that the provisions will be made to ensure that readmission of the girls does not encourage others to conceive while studying.

In her question, the MP had sought to know the progress reached in reviewing the policy to ensure that girls who drop out of schools to give birth are allowed back to classrooms. The deputy minister said the Education and Vocational Training Policy of 1995, which is currently being reviewed, stresses on providing education basing on gender equality.

He however noted that there have been a number of challenges in the education sector including drop-outs caused by early pregnancies among girls in primary and secondary schools. Ms Hewa had charged that some of the girls are raped, married-off forcefully by their parents while the majority of them are forced into early sex that results into pregnancies, due to hardships they encounter during the course of their studies.

She thus called for hardhitting penalties on irresponsible men who impregnate the schoolgirls as well as parents who marry-off their daughters and thus deny them education. Mr Majaliwa said the current education policy provides for fines of between 300,000/- and 400,000/- and jail terms of not more than three years for men who impregnate schoolgirls.

"I admit before the House however that the penalties are lenient and thus there is need to review them," the deputy minister said. In a supplementary question by Special Seats MP, Ms Marium Msabaha (Chadema), challenged the government to emulate Zanzibar and Malawi, which she said have managed to set up special schools for such young women.

In response, Mr Majaliwa said it was too early for the government to commit itself as to when it would start readmitting the girls until the policy is revised. He was however optimistic that the Minister for Education and Vocational Training will during the next session of the House issue a statement on the progress of reviewing the policy.

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