RUKWA Region plans to draft some bylaws that would allow parents or guardians to contribute food for meals of students in public schools during class hours.
The move, once comes into effect, is expected to be one of strategies of preventing teenage pregnancies and early marriages that are still high in the region.
According to the Tanzania Demographic Health and Malaria Indicators Survey (TDHMIS) of 2015/16, a total of 29 per cent of teen girls aged between 15 and 19 years old in Rukwa Region either have been impregnated or given birth, which is above the national rate of 27 per cent.
Rukwa Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr Joachim Wangabo told the 'Daily News' during an exclusive interview that all four councils in the region have been directed to craft bylaws to make parents or guardians to contribute food to (Primary and Secondary) public schools during class hours.
He further said the drafted bylaws will then be forwarded to the Minister of State- President Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) for further steps.
According to the RC, though contribution of meals is still a voluntary thing for parents or guardians, it would help in enticing students to stay in school healthy, instead of going to back home for meals during lunch breaks.
"Providing meals to children during class hours is of paramount strategy to either eliminating or preventing teens from becoming pregnant, hence shuttering their dreams... unfortunately most parents in the region still do not see its essence," pointed the RC.
However, he argued that providing meals to students in schools will also improve their academic performance, because majority will be concentrating in classes.
On his part the Kalambo District Council (KDC) Mr Daud Sichone explained that council's full council meeting has approved to draft the bylaws and have been submitted the issue to the Minister of State- President Office ( Regional Administration and Local Government)- for further consideration.
A cross-section of students who were interviewed separately confessed that staying at schools without getting food during lunch time,, caused some of them to drop out and others becoming chronic absentees. Rukwa Regional Medical Officer (RMO) Dr Boniface Kasululu noted that Rukwa Region has officially launched Five Year Strategic Plan (July 2020 - June 2025 being a concerted effort to eliminate early pregnancy and forced marriage coming 2025.
Dr Kasululu, who chaired a team of experts which drafted that strategic plan noted that latest statistics show that during a period of three years (2017 to August 2019 ) a total of 722 students dropped out of schools after being impregnated, among them, 171 were in Primary Schools and 551 from Secondary section.