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Teen mothers deserve a second chance
Janet Otieno-Prosper
Posted: 2 weeks 6 days

Last month’s remarks by Tanzanian President John Magufuli that schoolgirls who become pregnant will not be allowed back in public schools after giving birth, was most unfortunate. Many people have called on the government to rescind the decision.

In recent months, the Tanzanian government has been under pressure from a cross section of the country and the international community to let teen mothers resume their studies since banning them from schools pushes them to a deeper hole of stigma and poverty.

In one session in Parliament, former First Lady Salma Kikwete, now a nominated MP, vehemently opposed a suggestion by another legislator that teen mothers should be allowed back to school.

Sexual violence

Mrs Kikwete, a former teacher, stated that the teen mothers would be a bad influence to other students, thus encourage promiscuity.

Well, let’s get back to reality; these teen mothers are most of the times victims of sexual violence, coercion and neglect.

Often times, they are not mature enough to even know what the consequences are, let alone understand sex; when their innocence is robbed.

Their babies

It is really disturbing when leaders say that such girls routinely “enjoy sex”.

When most of them are sent away from their homes, they face ridicule and even poor nutrition during their pregnancy.

Some die during childbirth and those who make it are not mature enough to raise their babies.

With no skills on their hands, they resort to begging or hawking by the roadside.

Not being allowed back to school means the poverty cycle continues and it becomes really hard to break. Their dreams are crushed, thus they fail to reach their full potential.

A 2015 report by HakiElimu, a civil society group in Tanzania, indicates that 3,690 primary schoolgirls fell pregnant.

According to a 2015/16 study conducted by the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics, 21 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth, meaning the country has one of the highest adolescent pregnancies.

Imagine hindering 3,690 or more girls from achieving their educational objectives, thus trapping them in the poverty cycle?

A sad reality

What would happen to them and their children if they failed go to school is a sad reality. When teen girls get pregnant; the society and even their immediate family members often treat them as outcasts, leading to many unsafe abortions.

The children of the teen mothers would also suffer the same predicament in the hands of this hypocritical society, thus exposing them to more sexual violence and overdependence.

Condemning them to further isolation would make it even worse.

While I do not encourage premarital sex, let us give teen mothers some hope and dignity by allowing them back to school to attain their full potential.

Not a privilege

Education makes women an integral part of any country’s development, thus bettering the economy.

Taking education away from girls will be very devastating.

We should also remember that education is a right and not a privilege.

Twitter: @JanetOtieno