No pregnant student will be allowed to return to school, President Magufuli insists

Any girl of primary or secondary school age that gets pregnant should say bye to school as President John Magufuli says such students will not be allowed to return.

“In my administration, as long as I am president … no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools … never,” Magufuli said.

The highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world — 143 per 1,000 girls aged 15–19 years — is in sub-Saharan Africa. Several non-governmental organisations and activists have risen over the years to help find a way for pregnant girls of school age to return to school. Such call is becoming louder in Tanzania where increasing incident of teenage pregnancy is threatening the country’s impressive literacy rate (one of the highest in Africa).

In 1961, Tanzania banned pregnant girls from attending state primary and secondary schools. Activists have maintained that expelled teenagers face widespread stigma, the possibility of being forced into early marriage and the challenge of providing for themselves and their babies. However, Magufuli maintained during a public rally late on Thursday in Bagamoyo, a coastal town north of Dar-es-Salaam.

According to a 2013 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), more than 55,000 Tanzanian schoolgirls have been expelled from school over the last decade for being pregnant. Wealthier families are not really affected by the law as they are able to send their daughters to private schools which are not included in the 1961 ban. Majority of pregnant girls, however, end up looking for casual work.

Magufuli does not allow the big hammer land only on pregnant girls but also on men who impregnante them. He ordered police to arrest and prosecute them, saying convicted offenders could get up to 30 years in jail under the country’s sexual offences legislation.

“Non-governmental organisations that have been campaigning for pregnant girls to be allowed to continue with their studies at government schools should open private schools and enrol those teenage mothers,” Magufuli said.