Conflict in Tanzania Over New Mothers Returning to School

By: Sean Newhouse – Staff Writer

Tanzanian President John Magufuli grabbed headlines worldwide with a comment he made at a campaign rally in late June:

“As long as I am president…no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school…After getting pregnant, you are done,” he said.

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He went on to say that mothers of newborns would cause distractions in the classroom and be a bad influence on other girls.

There is no evidence to suggest that pregnant mothers attending school or new mothers returning to school causes an increase in pregnancies at a school.

A law passed in 1960s permitted young mothers to be banned from attending Tanzanian state schools. However, multiple Tanzanian officials believe laws passed since then, particularly civil rights laws, supersede the ongoing and aging protocol.

“No public statements could be found regarding termination of education for young fathers of newborns in Tanzania.”

The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), an independent Tanzanian government department, called on Tanzanian officials to permit impregnated girls to continue their academic studies after delivery.

In the National Assembly, the Tanzanian counterpart to the U.S. Congress, the social services and community development parliamentary committee urged the body to take reformative action.

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Former Tanzanian first lady Salma Kikwete, who now serves in the National Assembly, opposed the proposal to allow pregnant girls to return to school and instead supported enforcing laws that prohibit sex with minors.

The opposing sides in the National Assembly are currently in a state of deadlock.

The Tanzania Bureau of Statistics found that from 2015-16 about 21 percent of girls aged 15-19 have given birth. A report also found that 55,000 Tanzanian pregnant schoolgirls were expelled from schools in 2013.

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No public statements could be found regarding termination of education for young fathers of newborns in Tanzania.

Tanzania faces many issues. According to the CIA World Factbook, malaria and HIV are the two leading causes of death for children and adults, respectively.

The East African country is fourth highest in HIV/AIDs deaths internationally. The country also suffers from high maternal mortality rates and high mortality rates for children under the age of five.

Faiza Jama Mohamed, the director of Africa’s Equality Now branch, a nonprofit that promotes gender equality internationally, said in an interview with The Guardian that she believes many of Tanzania’s issues can be traced back to uncontrolled sexual violence and a lack of sex education. She noted that many young people are unaware of what can happen after sex.

There are many benefits to women remaining in education, particularly in developing countries.

Besides these women advancing their own minds and aiding their families, multiple studies such as McKinsey Global Institute’s 2015 report have shown that having more women in the workforce is beneficial to a country’s economy.

Photo Courtesy of qz.com