AN officer from the region's education department says authorities here have dissolved at least 80 premature and arranged marriages that could have affected girls already selected to join secondary schools next month.
The 80 would-be wives, victims of premature, arranged marriages were part of the 29,624 children who will be joining secondary schools next January after successfully completing seven years of primary education this year.
In Arusha alone, some 15,409 girls are enrolled for secondary education in 2018. However, around 80 of them could have missed such opportunity if their parents and potential in-laws had succeeded in formalising their ill-founded arranged marriage affairs.
Arusha regional education officer, Mwalimu Gift Kyando revealed here that the 80 girls lined up for early marriages were from records gleaned across the entire region, but that some wards and districts were more notorious for arranged 'marriages' than others, notably, Mwandeti; Oljoro; Musa and Olorieni Wards of Arusha rural district.
Others are Longido and Monduli districts, home to mostly nomadic and cattle grazing pastoralist communities. Apparently, these are the communities where girls seldom get enrolled into secondary schools, fate that would have befallen prospective 2018 candidates as well.
"In many of the cases, we discovered that the girls' parents or guardians had already received 'fat dowries' from prospective suitors ... traditional ceremonies are what remained before the girls were handed over the 'brides' to their future 'grooms,'" Mwalimu Kyando intimated.
Six of the rescued girls have since been taken into special children centres because authorities here realised that the environments surrounding their respective homes weren't conducive to further education.
To date, 36 parents or guardians had been arrested in connection with the alleged arranged marriages, saying, "... police officers went around the villages to arrest the offenders ... but we do not have the latest figures yet ... we also don't know whether the culprits have been brought to courts or not," he said, adding that authorities were still hunting for others.
It is also reported that many parents often 'coax' their daughters to deliberately 'sabotage' their own chances of success, encouraging them to taint the examination papers with 'graffiti' instead of correct answers so they may "fail their final academic tests" that would have qualified them to proceed to the next level at secondary schools.
Primary school pupils across Tanzania, including those of Arusha, will be sitting for final exams on January 8, 2018, paving way for entry to secondary education not just in Arusha but all over Tanzania Mainland when the new academic year opens.