23 June 2017

Tanzania: Activists Slam President Magufuli for Teen Mothers School Ban

Photo: The Citizen
Young girls at a public school. The government should adopt a multi-pronged approach to address the issue of teen pregnancies.

East Africans and women's rights groups have condemned Tanzanian President John Magufuli's comments that schoolgirls who give birth should not be allowed back to school.

An online petition has been set up to get the president to retract his statements, with pan-African women's rights group Femnet threatening to "blacklist" him as a "women's -violation enabler".

On Thursday, speaking to Bagamoyo residents during a three-day Coast region visit, Mr Magufuli argued that if the girls were permitted to resume studies, they would encourage other schoolgirls to engage in sex.

The president further slammed civil society organisations for pushing for the government to permit teen mothers to re-enter school. He told them that they should open schools for the teenagers instead.

African girl-child

The online petition says the president's statement "propagates more discrimination without reconsidering that these girls (students) need more sexual reproductive health education to be able to protect themselves from early pregnancies while in school."

The African Women's Development and Communication Network (Femnet), in a statement released on Friday, called on Mr Magufuli to "join the right side of history by advocating for the education rights of Tanzania's girl-child."

Dinah Musindarwezo, Femnet's executive director, said the Tanzanian leader was "re-victimising" teenage girls despite efforts made to "emancipate Africa's girl-child from the shackles of discrimination and violation."

"African women are strategising and mobilising with other women's rights organisations to compel President Magufuli to make an apology to Tanzania's girls and all the young women in Africa and retract that statement," she added.

Social media

Tanzanians took to social media using the hashtag #ArudiShule (let her return) on Twitter to criticise the president's statement and highlight the plight of girls who get pregnant while in school.

Kenyans used the hashtag #StopMagufuli to condemn the Tanzanian leader who has until now earned their praise for his leadership style particularly in his anti-graft campaign.

Koitamet Olekina, executive director of the Maasai Education Discovery, a non-profit organisation that rescues girls from early marriages in Kenya, condemned Mr Magufuli's comments, saying: "If Magufuli is standing on the pedestal of morality, then in my opinion, it would be more immoral to deny the Tanzanian girl child an opportunity to rise from a fall and be a better person than to relegate them to almost second-citizenship status for reasons sometimes out of their control."

Two weeks ago, Tanzania's Vice-President Mrs Samia Suluhu called for young mothers to be readmitted school, saying they should not be denied a right to education.

With agencies

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