THE debate is now closed: Schoolgirls who conceive during the course of their studies will not be allowed back to classes after childbirth, President John Magufuli announced yesterday.
“There have been some people and non-governmental organizations advocating for this idea … but it will not happen when I am in office; this is against our ethics. What is more … the child mothers who will be allowed back to classes will mostly likely spoil the other girls,” the president said.
He made the remarks in a speech during the official launch of the 64km Bagamoyo-Makofia-Msata road in Coast region which was constructed at over 180bn/-, fully-funded by taxpayers’ money.
“If it happens that the girl got pregnant unwillingly … then she should either join vocational training or engage in any other income generating activity like agriculture,” he stated.
President Magufuli stressed that culprits proved to have impregnated schoolgirls should be arraigned and jailed 30 years as stipulated by the law, urging security organs to act tough on the offenders.
He challenged NGOs advocating for the idea to set up their own private schools where they could cater exclusively for child mothers who drop out of schools because of pregnancies.
President Magufuli praised former First Lady Salma Kikwete, who is now Nominated MP, for championing against reinstating such girls into formal education. Ms Kikwete who is the Chairperson of WAMA, an NGO advocating for welfare of women and girls, has been on the forefront on opposing teen mothers back to classes.
Dr Magufuli also expressed his discomfort on moral decay in the society particularly homosexuality, which he attributed to ‘bad luck’. “We should have fear for God, these are not our morals and even animals do not behave that way,” he stated.
Debating the budget for the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, in Dodoma last month, lawmakers were divided over whether pregnant school children should resume their studies after delivery or be dismissed summarily.
Former Minister for Education who is now Urambo MP, Ms Margaret Sitta, was among those who appealed to the government to allow ‘kid mothers’ to resume studies after delivery.
However, other MPs led by Ms Kikwete vehemently opposed the plea; in particular, Ms Salma who said that such ‘allowance’ would go contrary to our own laws, customs and traditions.
“I totally disagree to allow ‘child mothers’ to resume studies after childbirth … and I would urge all MPs, irrespective of their gender and political affiliations to support me,” she stressed.
Fiery legislator Ally Kessy (Nkasi North-CCM) said the allowance would fuel births of street children and HIV/AIDS infections. “… these children have committed adultery which is contrary to our holy books, our laws and traditions.
“If we allow this (resumption of studies after delivery), next time we’ll be forced to allow same-sex marriages,” he charged. Their sentiments were echoed by the Minister for Home Affairs and Iramba West MP (CCM) Mwigulu Nchemba, Prof Norman Sigala (Makete-CCM), Almas Maige (Tabora NorthCCM) and Goodluck Mlinga (Ulanga East-CCM).
They argued that even available statistics showed that truancy was the bigger problem than early pregnancy in schools, and should therefore deal with it first. The legislators argued further that the reinstatement of child mothers would condone sexual intercourse among school children.
Other MPs led by the Shadow Minister for Education, Suzan Lyimo (Special Seats-Chadema), stood to their guns, saying discontinuation of studies was a blatant denial of basic human rights.
In the debate dominated by interruptions, cheers and disapprovals from all corners regardless of political camps, Ms Lyimo’s supporters argued that the affected children had been impregnated against their will.