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Pregnancy and girls’ right to education: are we there yet?

According to an article titled "MPs split on the proposal to allow teenage mothers back to school" in yesterday’s The Citizen, parliament was divided over whether or not to allow girls who get pregnant to return to school after delivery – a proposal by the Parliamentary Committee for Social Services and Community Development.

The debate was around whether these girls should be allowed back into school after delivery or should be permanently expelled.

On the one hand some MPs argued that it went against Tanzanian customs and culture around morality to let these girls go back to school. Many favoured a punitive approach to this issue with expulsion from school for young girls and 30 year jail sentences for the men or boys who impregnate them.

Other MPs thought that this policy was archaic and resulted in a form of discrimination. The children of elites are unlikely to suffer the consequences of these expulsions as strongly as children from poorer families.

What do the data say?

How many girls are affected and what happens to them?

According to the UNFPA adolescent pregnancy report 2013, a study done on 20-24 year old women in Tanzania showed that 28% of them gave birth before the age of 18. As a result, a number of girls have dropped out of school due to this problem. However, Tanzania lacks a re-entry policy.

When citizens were asked about their experience with girls’ pregnancy while in school, 21% of citizens said they knew of a female family member who dropped out of either primary or secondary school as a result of pregnancy. Among those who knew of girls in their family who had dropped out, 72% report that these women became housewives.

Why does it matter

According to Uwezo learning assessment data, there is a strong association between a mother’s level of education and her child’s learning levels. So the children of all the girls that are expelled from school will suffer the consequences as well; they are more likely to have lower learning outcoems and be disadvantaged from the start.

 

 

 

 

What do citizens think?

When asked about what they think should happen to a girl who gets pregnant while still in school, 7 out of 10 (71%) citizens think that girls should be allowed back to school, whether after giving birth, to a different school or even during their entire pregnancy.

Read more: education Tanzania

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