IN a heated debate lately, Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to come to an agreement over the fate of school girls who become pregnant.
One side was of the view that allowing the girls to resume studies after giving birth would promote sexual evils in schools. In other words, the move would encourage the presence of teenage mothers among students .
Another side warned that not every pregnancy results from voluntary sexual acts. They recalled that there was rape and forced marriages among many acts of violence against the girl child, let alone the weakness of a girl in decision- making as well as lack of courage to fight for her rights.
While the public waits for the government stand on the destiny of the victims, observers say that early and unexpected pregnancy affects not only school children but also young women.
The difference is that school girls fall victim at an early stage of life when the fate of their future is yet to be determined. It is indeed early for them since as they lack almost everything to support their life, mostly education. Last week, TGNP-Mtandao, organized a workshop which brought together-the best female university graduates, for academic year 2015/16, to reveal the secret behind their success while others failed to complete their studies.
Teofilo Kisanji University- Dar es Salaam Campus graduate, Ms Aisha Sudi said that pregnancies at colleges were seriously afflicting female students; citing poverty as the major cause. During an interview with the ‘Daily News’, Ms Sudi appealed to student loan authorities to give priority to female students and offer 100 per cent loan to every girl admitted to college.
“There are many female students who are capable in class but fail to meet their dreams due to lack of support. They engage in bad social practices to earn money for tuition fee and daily up-keep.
As a result, they end up falling into the trap which results in unwanted pregnancies, hence drop out,” she said, adding that: “Female students have many essential necessities compared to men. For instance, they need sanitary pads and personal hygiene, a situation which no young woman can skip.
Men can go out without applying body lotion but not women. Those are very few examples,” said Ms Sudi. She urged the public in general, especially people in rural areas to recognize the importance of educating girls as per the government and other development stakeholders’ call and efforts.
At the same time, she advised girls to recognize and value their personality; saying not all who are involved in sexual activities are poor, but this was a result of moral decay. Worse still, most perpetrators have been ignoring the use of protection, because they know that girls are free to postpone their studies.
“Nobody knows their health status in terms of sexually transmitted disease including HIV/AIDS. According to my experience, only a few victims go back to college to complete their studies. Let the public know that education is key to a bright future,” said Ms Sudi.
It is only behavior change which would liberate the victims, according to Ms Sudi advising them to avoid misuse freedom they get at university. Hubert Kairuki Memorial University (HKMU) graduate Joan Zenas commended the fifth-phase government in improving education but insisted on provision of full package loan (100 percent) to every female student.
She also emphasized on the need for girls’ hostels, saying some students have been forced to get hooked to boyfriends, as a means of securing accommodation and other daily needs. The situation is also the cause of unwanted pregnancies and most victims end up becoming housekeepers after skipping studies. “Perhaps they lack confidence and readiness to be who they plan to be,” she said.
Feza Schools’ Director, Mr Ibrahim Yunus admitted lack of confidence among female students calling for regular debates programmes from primary school to university. The programme should be practiced in and outside learning institutions to serve not only in confidence gain but also in exposure as well as promoting talents. Addressing students and parents during Feza schools’ graduation in Dar es Salaam last week, he added: “I do insist that only debates can make it. It is the best way we can produce many more competent leaders.”
On her part, Feza International Graduate, Aika Shirima appealed to authorities to fill the educational gap between private and public schools mostly through availability of proper facilities and infrastructure on top of well-educated human resource.
She said the public should support the government’s efforts in improving education sector through imitating the Kenyan ‘harambee’ system, believed to be introduced specifically for supporting every children going to school.
“Our parents can contribute millions of shillings to support special occasions, including weddings, why not organize harambee for education?” she queried.
The Deputy Minister in the President’s Office, Local Government and Regional Administration (PORALG), Mr Selemani Jafo who honored the graduation, revealed that the government had set aside about 18.7b/- in the current financial year to support free education initiative as per President John Magufili’s directive.
There was also the budget to rehabilitate all old secondary schools country-wide, 1bn/- each, wherein over 89 institutions had already repaired. Over 16b/- was allocated in science laboratories’ facilities; according to the Deputy Minister. “We are doing the best especially in high schools.
Few parents do take their children in private at this level. Most are scrambling to get a chance in public institutions.
It is because the service is cheap but with quality,” he said. Commenting on how fake certificates affected education sector, Mr Jafo admitted to have been seriously hit, but quick measures had already took place.
Through Administrative Secretaries PORALG established the gap and replacement exercise was on final stage; according to him, adding that: “not only education but also health sector was seriously affected.”