MBEYA: DESPITE President Samia Suluhu Hassan announcing lifting a ban for teen mothers returning to school one year after she assumed the presidency, some of the teen mothers struggle to return to school due to various reasons, including extreme poverty and lack of support from the family level.
After the president’s announcement, various measures have been taken to implement the directives, including the formulation of re- entry guidelines in 2022 by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
A guideline which gives teen mothers a second chance to return to school two years after giving birth, also allows students who dropped out of school due to other various reasons, including truancy and other family challenges to return to classrooms.
However, despite the opportunity given for the dropouts to return to school, there are still some challenges that engulf the students, particularly those who dropped out of school due to pregnancy.
Lack of support from parents or guardians is said to be one of the obstacles for those students to return to school or fail to continue with their studies even after a second chance.
‘Daily News o Saturday’ visited several schools in Mbeya City Council to explore the implementation of the re-entry policy and met a teen mother, Grace Jonas (21) who was struggling to return to school.
Ms Grace is one of the teen mothers who managed to return to school at Sinde Secondary School, but due to a lack of support from her family, she has been forced to redrop from school for an indefinite period of time after not being able to afford transport fare.
According to her teacher, Mr Raymond Mapigano after a girl dropped out of school, she decided to work at a certain local restaurant located nearby her home (Uyole) to earn an income.
‘Daily News on Saturday’ paid a visit to the place where Grace was doing her job to find out the reason exactly for her not attending classes for more than three months.
During the interview, among others, Grace identifies that the transport fare from home (Uyole ) to school (Sinde ) is a major obstacle for her to attend classes due to the lack of support from her parents.
Re-entry guidelines pinpoint the responsibilities of various stakeholders including parents and guardians, to ensure access to basic needs for children who have returned to school.
Despite the fact that the re-entry guidelines highlight the responsibilities for some government officials, education authorities, education stakeholders and parents in facilitating the re-entry especially for adolescent mothers, some parents have failed to honour such obligation.
It is believed that this is either due to poverty or some of them being disappointed by their children trapped in pregnancy. So this is to say some students who are eager to go back to classrooms, are making their own struggle for re-entry with no any support.
Mbeya City Council Education Officer, Ms Joyce Kaguo, calls for parents and guardians to support their children (teen mothers who returned to school) so that they can fulfill their life dreams, stressing that one being a mother at younger age doesn’t make her an adult who can manage and facilitate own life.
Grace’s statement resembles what another teen mother Floida Sikeya (21) , a beneficiary of re-entry is currently facing as she attends classes with her baby at LEGICO Secondary School.
Ms Sikeya says she is forced to attend the classes with the baby as she have no maid to take care of her kind while going to school. In line, she implored the government to help them allocate a place to breastfeed the children in the school.
Her call was immediately responded to by the Mbeya City Council Director, Mr John Nchimbi, who directs the office of the Regional Education Officer to find the exact number of students who attend classes with their babies and set aside a centre for them in one of the four schools in the council.
“Most of these students are coming from poor families, so we need to know the exact statistics and allocate them to one of the nearest centres …we will even recruit two nurses temporarily to look after the babies,” Mr Nchimbi underlines.
Recently, at the International Day of the Girl Child, which was held nationally in Dodoma, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Prof Adolf Mkenda, said the country is in the right direction in executing measures to ensure a girl child gets rights to education.
The minister highlights some of the achievements that the country is proud of in education, including the re-entry programme that allows students who dropped out of school due to various reasons, including pregnancy, to return to school.
“Through the re-entry policy, a total of 7,995 female students have returned to school through the formal systems and alternative pathways,” Prof Mkenda added.
The minister also points out various efforts made by the country, including reviewing various policies, laws and documents to ensure that all children, including girls, have equal opportunities for education.
The minister said: “Some of these efforts include the enactment of the Law of the Child Act, 2009, and formulating Education Circular No. 3 of 2021 that allows re-entry of school dropouts due to any reasons including pregnancies back to a formal system of education.
“I would like to invite the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to collaborate with our docket to conduct research by monitoring all those who have returned to school.
“I would like to interview them individually to look at the environment, achievements and challenges and come up with suggestions on the best way to implement these instructions of President Samia to ensure that no child is left behind in education,” he emphasised