Tanzania: Pregnancy Keeps Girls Away From Schools

Thousands of girls in Tanzania leave school each year because due to pregnancy, says a global report on barriers to education.

In addition, many adolescent Tanzanian girls "find it challenging to go to school" during their menstrual periods, adds the report published last week on Thursday by Human Rights Watch.

They are given little information about menstruation, and have "no one to talk to about periods, including female teachers," the report states.

Sexual harassment on the part of teachers also forces some girls to leave school, the New York-based rights group found. It cites the case of "Ana," the pseudonym for a 16-year-old Mwanza girl who told researchers she dropped out of secondary school as a result of a teacher's demands that she have sex with him.

Demands from teachers

"The teacher was approaching me during the field practice," Ana is quoted as saying in an interview conducted in January. "He would call me outside [the school's premises] when students went for a break. He seduced me and tried to [have sex] with me. I stopped going [to sports]. I did this because I was scared that if I was going to meet him he would take me somewhere else to do things with me."

The report notes that schools in Tanzania routinely conduct mandatory pregnancy tests, "despite the evidence of negative and degrading impact of testing."

A Ministry of Education toolkit issued in 2013 recommends periodic pregnancy testing of schoolgirls as a way of curbing teenage pregnancies, "but omits the need to ensure girls have access to comprehensive sexual education," the NGO points out.

About 8,000 pregnant girls are forced to leave school annually, Human Rights Watch asserts, citing statistics included in a 2010 United Nations report.

The rights group cites the example of "Sharon," who it says was expelled in her first year of primary school.

"When the head teacher found out that I was pregnant, he called me to his office and told me, 'You have to leave our school immediately because you are pregnant,'" the report quotes the girl as saying.

The government adopted provisions last year that allow admission of girls to school after they have given birth, the report notes. It adds, however, that "many girls continue to be barred from re-entering education."

The report also makes note of "questionable practices by teachers" that negatively affect poor pupils in Tanzania and other countries.

It cites one "widespread" abuse whereby teachers charge families for providing instruction outside school in compulsory subjects that should be taught during regular class hours.

Publication of The Education Deficit: Failures to Protect and Fulfill the Right to Education in Global Development Agendas is keyed to a World Learning Summit that took place in Norway from June 13 to 16.

Government officials, global policymakers and representatives of funding agencies attending the meeting are expected to discuss ways of improving access to quality education around the world.

Source: The East African