28 June 2017

Tanzania: Bottom Line - This Is What Govt Can Still Do to Help Teen Mothers

Photo: The Citizen
A joint press conference held in Dar es Salaam by the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, which advocate women and girls’ rights, stressed the importance of educating girls.

Though President John Magufuli said it expressly-no pregnant girl will be allowed back to school under his rule; which is logical-still the government's duty is to make every effort to help such.

Teen pregnancies are a real menace to families across. It's understandable that everybody is wagging their tongue either in support or agonisingly and negatively opposing this tough stance. However, there'll be a steep price to pay as we trade punches as a nation.

I know.As a parent and a leader, President Magufuli is agonised just like anybody would. Again, if he steps in the shoes of the parents of gravid daughters, I'm sure the narrative will dramatically change. We need to think out of the box; understanding that, as the society, we've circumstantially contributed to creating this jumble either consciously or unconsciously through societal sloppiness, dishonesty, greed, selfishness, debauchery resulting from modernity, copycat behaviours and whatnots.

If this stance isn't being re-examined, its ramifications will be negatively immense to the future of the nation. For, it'll increase ignorant and disadvantaged people in mothers and their unplanned children. Due to the challenging nature of school pregnancies, I think we need to do the following:

First, open adult education centers to cater for those who'll drop out because of pregnancies or imbuing their colleagues. These centres must cater both for secondary and high school education for gravid girls; and their partners who happen to be students. I can draw an example from Canada.

Despite having all sorts of freedoms, such as teaching students that ngono is human rights, even Canada doesn't allow teen mothers to go on with schooling or curtail the development of the country and its citizens.

Students kick up their heels as they like. However, they must see to it that they're not becoming pregnant. The system here allows a person to complete his or her secondary education when he or she reaches 18. At this age whether pregnant or not anybody's supposed to be in a class. Anybody above 18 is entitled to complete his secondary school diploma at such adult education centres anytime he or she deems fit.

Secondly, address the root causes. Although we tend to blame the victims, as the society, we've contributed to this anathema to our daughters. For example, circumstantially, corruption's a lot to do with pupil pregnancies. How heavily do we punish perpetrators? Thanks to corruption in upper echelons of powers, many citizens are ignorant and poor. You can see this in poor transportation, poor housing, and ill-equipped schools among others.

Third, fight and eradicate systemic gender bias in which girls are condemned wholesale simply because they're females. What are the traps and motivations that lure our girls into being impregnated? Are their families strong morally and materially? Why punishing girls only. What's the position of the government which some pregnancies are caused by students? Will they still be eligible to proceed with studies while they actually are parents? What's the punishment for adults say, teachers, or whoever impregnates a student?

I'd argue that whoever impregnates a student, apart from being brought to book, must be jailed; and public employees who happen to win the case due to lack of watertight evidence or technicalities must be expelled from public services. This will send a strong signal to others still contemplating to do the same.

Forth, seriously fight corruption and poverty which, in a sense, are the major causes of this beatinest challenge.

Lastly, amend or enact laws so as to hand down heavy punishments to perpetrators. For, they are robbing young girls of their lives. More important, we need to unequivocally address this problem making sure that anger and blame games aren't used in addressing the problem.

Swahili's it that when a baby poops on your hand, you don't cut it nor do you throw the baby away.

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