MAGUFULI BANS PREGNANT GIRLS FROM SCHOOLS | Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has been condemned for comments that girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school.
An online petition has been set up and a pan-African women’s organisation is mobilising to get the president to apologise and reverse his comments.Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: “After getting pregnant, you are done.”
A law passed in 2002 allows for the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls. The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”.
Women’s rights groups have recently been urging the government to change the law.
Mr Magufuli, who was speaking at a public rally in Chalinze town, about 100km west of the main city Dar es Salaam, said that young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school:
“After calculating some few mathematics, she’d be asking the teacher in the classroom: ‘Let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby.'”He said that men who impregnate the schoolgirls should beimprisoned for 30 years and “put the energy they used to impregnate the girl into farming while in jail”.
President Magufuli also criticised rights organisations who have been pushing the govt to reverse the law:”These NGOs should go out and open schools for parents. But they should not force the government [to take back the pupils].
“I’m giving out free education for students who have really decided to go and study, and now you want me to educate the parents?”The BBC’s Sammy Awami in Tanzania reports that the crowd at the rally applauded the president’s comments.
At least 8,000 Tanzanian girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
The online petition says that the president’s support for the expulsion law would end the education of many girls and “propagate more discrimination”.
It instead calls for the girls to be protected from early pregnancies while in school. The African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Femnet has also expressed its outrage.
“With all the work we have done to emancipate Africa’s girl-child from the shackles of discrimination and violation, a sitting president turns around to “re-victimze” and treat their situation like a terrible infectious disease which other girls must be protected from,” said its head Dinah Musindarwezo.
Lawyer Kavinya Makau called Mr Magafuli’s sentiments a” betrayal of the highest order.