FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Susan Adam grappled with many trials of sexual exploitation before she made a decision to rent a room near her school.
The Form Three student at Lwamgasa Secondary School, in Geita District, endured various tricks from miners, traders and exporters of gold products who offered to provide money and other gifts, making several attempts to trap her as she walked to and from school.
“They would show off and display gifts such as money and valuable things they intended to give me, if I would agree to spend some time with them at a lodge or guest house,” she says. Susan is not the only girl in this situation.
Hundreds of other innocent girls attending schools located around the gold mines in Lwamgasa Ward suffer similar trials from high profile gangs who lure school-girls into sexual exploitation.
Long distances to schools, desperation of poverty and lack of hostels equipped with facilities in schools, are factors that make the adolescent girls potential victims of sexual exploitation.
A ‘Daily News’ study has established that innocent girls are easily trapped by the perpetrators after being given pocket money and other gifts, but end up paying a heavy price of underage sex.
A number of students interviewed noted that many students including girls from poor families walk long distances to schools, traversing at gold extraction areas where they meet the perpetrators.
Susan like other students, walked for eight kilometers from home to school every day, making round trip of 16 kilometers a day, 80 kilometers per week, 320 per month and 3,840 kilometers per year.
She went through two mines namely Bingwa Leaf and Isene mines before arriving at school. The mines (Bingwa and Isene) are located 5 and 10 kilometers respectively, from her school.
The poverty situation on the party of her parents could not allow Susan to seek accommodation at a school hostel, so she resorted to renting a room in her school’s neighbourhood for which the parents pays 5,000/-every month to keep the precious girl out of the gangs.
“My parents could not afford to pay 400,000/- for my stay at the hostel in school. So they decided to let me rent a room at a house in the school’s vicinity,” she recounts. A 2017 report released by Human Rights Watch shows that many young girls face sexual exploitation and abuse by bus drivers and adults who often ask for sex in exchange for gifts, rides or money.
Schools and officials do not report cases of sexual abuse to police and many schools lack confidential mechanism to report abuse. But some teachers agreed that the perpetrators who tend to have extreme sexual fetish demand from younger girls go as far as abducting the innocent girls, spending days with them in the lodging.
“Some of our girls go missing from school and their homes for days before resurfacing,” says one of the female teachers at Lwamgasa Secondary School. She noted that several girls are being abducted and kept in lodges within the mining areas.
Frequent visits by the ‘Daily News’ at Bingwa Leaf and Isane gold mines found out that the perpetrators hang around the highways in the evening waiting for the innocent schoolgirls who pass by. “I have been around here for over 15 year.
It is an obvious game, the majority of people and even parents are aware of the game but can do nothing,” says Lazaro Shija, an elder at Bingwa area. “Students especially adolescents girls go through lots of trials meandering through sorts of exploitative behaviors and awful crimes from the gangs in the mines,” he lamented.
He says a number of girls in school have become victims of awful crime (sex exploitation) forcing the majority to drop out of school due to stigma. Some of the girls are at home taking care of children and others resort to early marriage.
“Some of the girls resort to immoral acts like prostitution, some are involved in crushing of ore, doing businesses like selling food,” he adds. Baraka Emmanuel, a form two student at Lwamgasa Secondary says “It is a usual thing, I know of the friends here in school who are victims of the game (sex exploitation). And others have opted to drop because of stigma and pregnancies,” she said.
“Some of the girls resort to immoral acts like prostitution, others are involved in crushing of ore, doing businesses like selling food,” he adds. Baraka Emmanuel, a Form Two student at Lwamgasa Secondary says “It is a common thing, I know one of the friends here in school who is a victims of the game (sexual exploitation.
And others have opted to drop because of stigma and pregnancies, “she said. School hostel The ‘Daily News’ visited some of the schools located in the mining area, but found out that the hostels were few and ill equipped.
Some had no mattresses and beds for the stu dents’ comfort. Lwamgasa Secondary School for example is a public school with girls’ hostels but the number of beds is fewer than the number of girls admitted.
According to the Deputy Principal of the School, Mr Masaguda Bundu, the school has a total number of 352, but only 35 girls are secured in the school hostel. Some 50 girls according to Mr Bundu rent rooms at houses and homes outside the school compound.
“Rental fees that we charge in the hostels keep at bay the majority of the girls as their parents fail to afford the 400,000/- required per year,” said Mr Bundu. He added the hostel is specifically designed for girls.
They face a shortage of 60 beds, a move that forces some girls to hire rooms near the school. School’s statistics indicate that six out of 10 girls, dropout of school every month. Early pregnancies among girls are also high.
According to school’s statistics, five to six girls fall pregnant per month. “Academic performance is also very low for girls compared to boys,” he says. A recent report by Human Rights Watch indicates that 1.5 million adolescents are not in school, with an estimation of 8,000 girls dropping out from school every year due to pregnancies.
The report says that the government has not carried out its plan to build enough safe hostels to accommodate girls close to schools. Students in remote and rural area of the country have to travel very far to get to school.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology schools in the Lake Zone including Geita, have the highest rate of second ary school dropouts in Tanzania, Geita being second on the topping list.
Interviewed teachers, students and community members pointed out unfulfilled promises made by political and government leaders as one of the setbacks towards the community’s progress to put up adequate and quality school infrastructures including hostels to support girlchild education.
Students and the school teachers at Lwamgasa, revealed to the ‘Daily News’ that the area Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Lolesia Bukwimba including other leaders for several times promised to quip the girls hostels with necessities one year back, but has since failed to turn up.
“She visited the school last year and promised to buy us the beds, but she never came back. We are still waiting,” disclosed one Regina a student at the school. Contacted for comments, Ms Bukwimba admitted she had made an unfulfilled promise, insisting that plans were under way to distribute beds and other girls’ necessities in schools around the mining areas.
“I am aware of the promise. I have set funds from the Constituency Development Fund to purchase the beds that will be distributed in various schools including Lwamgasa, Katoro and others,” she said.
Every month the parliament allocates a total of 60m/- for the Constituencies Development Fund. The funds are allocated to support the members of parliament in development of social development projects in their constituencies.
Government efforts Schools’ Logistics Officer (SLO) of Geita District Ms Neema Emmanuel said the Municipal Council has set aside a budget to construct three hostels. According to the data from the municipality, only seven out 176 primary secondary schools have girls’ hotels.
She confirmed on the presences of poor and inadequate presence of hostels in schools to support the girl-child in the education progress. “We (municipal council) are currently renovating girls hostels, equipping them with facilities such as beds and other necessities, but with plans on cards to construct more hostels,” she said.
She however said delay and inadequate resource budget by the government to the municipality has been the stumbling block towards the construction of hostels in the schools. Ms Emmanuel said efforts are being implemented with the Municipal Council in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, area investors and business people.
The Global Sisters Report asserts that widespread construction of dormitories at the free government school is unlikely because the dormitories require an immediate injection of money to build not to mention operating costs.
It was only in 2006 that the government made an effort to ensure there was a secondary school in each district but building dormitories at these schools is still a far cry in future. The Tanzania Education Authority’s (TEA) Education Fund counts girls’ hostels as one their seven priority areas.
TEA’s Secondary School Development Programme (SEDP 11) planned to build 100 hostels at Secondary Schools, each accommodating 48 girls by the end of 2015.