22 November 2012

Tanzania: They Erred but Should Go Back to School

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Young women perform in traditional dress in Arusha, Tanzania.

THE Constitution Review Commission has been told that it is unfair to terminate the educational pursuits of schoolgirls who get pregnant.

The bone of contention here is that most men who put schoolgirls in the family way are never prosecuted or punished. The other anomaly is that the parents of the pregnant schoolgirl often demand dowry from the offending man and the dispute ends once the dowry is delivered.

So unceremoniously, her education life ends there and then. Schoolgirls, like their brothers, need education. They do not need husbands - at least for that time being when they are pursuing their education. President Jakaya Kikwete has often spoken bitterly and even angrily at public rallies on school pregnancies when touring the southern regions of Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma.

He has ordered that all men who are proven guilty of putting schoolgirls in the family way be prosecuted. However, the trend still persists, denying schoolgirls the right to proper education. Greed for gain is, in some critical cases, the nagging affront. The suitor often pays a dowry that, in the eyes of the parents of the pregnant girl, alleviates poverty. In regions such as Mara and Mwanza, the bride price involves delivery of several cows, goats, sheep and a small sum of money to the parents of the unfortunate girl, often against her will.

In other areas, the dowry could even come in the form of a few 'horns' of local brew! It is imperative to mention here that all children should be allowed the love and security of their families until they become young adults and should go through academic education fully. Every generation depends upon access to quality education. Girls should remain in their families until they attain the age of majority.

It would be remiss not to point out here that the state committed itself to implement the UN Child Rights Convention which was adopted unanimously in 1989. Tanzania ratified it in 1991. The convention places special emphasis on the child's right to education, health, nutrition, shelter, safety and the right not to be discriminated against. Women's potential in nation building and other frontiers is curtailed when schoolgirls are pulled out of classrooms. Why then should some people who do not think right, think that they are the exception?

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