By Khalifa Hemed
Published July 8, 2017
The Government of Tanzania should end its hostile rhetoric toward civil society groups helping pregnant girls complete their education.
Eighteen local and international non-governmental organisations have taken issue with Tanzania’s President John Magufuli’s statement on June 22, 2017 that pregnant girls cannot be allowed back to public school even after the birth of their children.
They quote Magufuli as having said, “As long as I’m president, no pregnant students will be allowed to return to school” and that the young mothers could opt for vocational training or become entrepreneurs in businesses but should not be permitted to pursue formal education in public schools.
“Tanzania’s president and other top officials should be focusing on how to build the country by helping everyone complete their education and ending discrimination,” says Elin Martinez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch in a Press Statement issued in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 6, 2017. “Protecting people’s rights not only helps them and their families, but strengthens the whole country.”
The NGOs say that Mwigulu Nchemba, Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister, threatened on June 25 to de-register organisations that challenged the president’s ban on schooling for pregnant girls and teen mothers.
“The government estimates that 30 out of every 100 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy in 2015. Many schools routinely force girls to undergo pregnancy tests and expel girls who are found to be pregnant, give birth, or get married, bringing an early end to their formal education,” the NGOs say.
Saying the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party pledged in its 2015 election manifesto to ensure girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy can continue their studies, the NGOs argue that President Magufuli and Minister Nchemba are contradicting “longstanding efforts by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and civil society organizations to develop re-entry guidelines to ensure that girls can go back to school after pregnancy.”
The NGOs call on the Government of Tanzania to “stop threatening the work of nongovernmental organizations” as “Independent civil society plays a crucial role in debates, policymaking and services on critical issues facing Tanzania.”