In Tanzania, one in four girls under 18 is a mother and most of these girls are still in school when they first become pregnant. Until this year, Tanzania’s schools would automatically expel girls because they were pregnant. And they were not encouraged to return after giving birth.But after years of lobbying by children’s aid organiations, the government altered its Education and Training Policy this year, to allow girls to go back to school after they have given birth.
With many of its people living below the World Bank poverty line, the east African country is one of the poorest in the world, but in spite of this, even before the policy change, a few girls managed to find their own way back into education through initiatives like the Temeke Vocational Centre.
Temeke Vocational Centre was set up in 2006 with 80 students aiming to provide quality post- primary education and training to girls and boys who have dropped out of school for various reasons, including pregnancy.
Eighteen year-old Bethsheba Sanga and her son Thabit are two people the centre has helped. In 2006 after she finished Standard Seven, Bethsheba’s neighbour approached her. “He said me he loved me and now that I was waiting for my examination results, we should have a relationship because it was the perfect time,” she told Tanzania’s government owned Daily News newspaper. “He also told me to be like other girls who have boyfriends... I agreed so one thing led to another... I ended up becoming pregnant. He did not refuse the pregnancy but both of us had no income so we had to tell our parents. I live with my aunt who was very furious at first but later on she had to accept the situation,” said Bethsheba. She is now attending classes at the centre. “I can now make batiks but if I ever get a chance to continue with form one, I will do that.”
Catherine, 16, was in her third year at secondary school when she became pregnant and was forced to drop out.
“I wanted to come to the Vocational Centre to develop myself, but it’s very hard for me, because I have no one at home to look after my daughter Melissa,” she told the United Nations Children’s fund UNICEF. “I will try to stay in school and have no more children until I complete my education.” But the centre’s good work is far from done. Still some schools are expelling pregnant girls, because they simply don’t know about the policy change, UNICEF said.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children