Campaigners have hit out over an African president’s vow to prevent pregnant girls from returning to school.
A coalition of NGOs claim the ban in Tanzania contradicts manifesto pledges and goes against public opinion.
John Magufuli, the country’s president, was quoted as telling a recent rally: “As long as I am president […] no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools.”
Equality Now says 55,000 girls have been expelled from school over the last decade and banning them opens the door to child marriage and female genital mutilation.
The female human rights group said in a statement: “High numbers of girls who become pregnant in Tanzania are subjected to rape, sexual violence and coercion and those who have experienced sexual violence or exploitation should not be punished twice for something out of their control.
“Barring teenage mothers from education not only perpetuates discrimination on the basis of gender, but it is also an indication of the Tanzanian government’s failures to address the root cause of widespread sexual violence against adolescent girls.”
A petition to get the president to do a u-turn has been launched.
Tanzanian civil society organisations, addressing Magufuli in a written statement, said: “We would like to let you know that pregnancy is not the only challenge that these girls are facing compared to their male counterparts in their quest to get an education.
“To get pregnant and go through the psychological turbulence of parenting at this age is enough punishment. To deny them an opportunity to return to school is to add insult to their already injured souls. The negative impact of this move will be felt by the vulnerable children they have given birth to.”