7 February 2013

Rwanda: Investigations Into School Pregnancy Scandal Launched

Police in Eastern Province have launched an investigation into the high pregnancy rate that has prevailed over the last two years in Groupe Scolaire Nsinda, a secondary school located in Rwamagana district.

According to Eastern Province Police spokesman, Supt. Benoît Nsengiyumva, so far 11 girls (now single mothers) who dropped out of school due to the scandal in the past year have recorded statements.

Some of them have children aged between a couple of months and one year, which means the act has been happening for more than two years.

Nsengiyumva said at the beginning, the interrogated girls, who include adults now aged over 20, were reluctant to reveal the responsible persons.

They initially attributed the pregnancies to a former teacher - who has since died - but finally said the culprits were people they met outside school, since theirs is not a boarding school.

A story published by The New Times early this week indicates that within a short time, at least 26 students at the school, were reported to have been impregnated by persons from outside the school.

That, Nsengiyumva said, is one of the indicators that the issue is more complex and the school administration should also be blamed for carelessness because they failed to report the issue which later turned into a big concern.

The police are yet to arrest any suspect because they are still gathering information to identify the number of affected girls, with assistance from Rwamagana district, the officer said.

According to Yvonne Muhongayire, the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs in Rwamagana district, scanty information from parents and school inspectors is not helping the cause but they hope to get to the bottom of the cases.

She added they were not alarmed by the situation because the school did not show any indication of indiscipline.

"The dropout rate at this school was minor just like you can find in other schools and the students' behaviour was not found to be different from other students in the town vicinity," she said.

Alarmed by the figures from media and which are yet to be confirmed as investigations are still ongoing, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs, Esperance Mwiza said she was exploring ways she can interest her colleagues to help with investigations.

Legal advocacy

The child and women rights advocacy group, Haguruka, says it is ready to avail free legal support to the victims in this scandal if they come for help.

Dative Mujawamariya, the legal officer of Haguruka in the province, who already has six files of rape cases, said, "We can help them throughout, right from the investigation to medical procedures, and even during filing their cases and getting lawyers, but only if they request our help."

So far, she said, the most important exercise is to identify those girls and the men responsible.

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