Tanzania: Accelerate action to protect girls’ right to education

(Nairobi, March 23, 2022) – Tanzania’s pledge to adopt policies to ensure institutions ensure teenage mothers can go back to school by June 2022 is a major turning point for girls’ education, according to Human Rights Watch and Accountability Counsel today.

On March 8th, the Tanzanian government and the World Bank published their agreement to restructure the Program to improve the quality of secondary education of Tanzania (Secondary Education Quality Improvement Program or SEQUIP), funded by a World Bank loan of EUR 500 million

« The Government of Tanzania has taken an important and encouraging first step to right a long-standing injustice against girls said Elin Martínez, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division. ” Authorities should now accelerate the adoption of strict, human rights-compliant policies and introduce into law and practice protections for pregnant or maternal students. »

On November 24, 2021, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology issued a circular stating that pregnancy and maternity cannot be grounds for expulsion from public institutions. Minors who have become mothers are therefore entitled to return to their public institution to continue their education. Tanzania was among the few countries in Africa to specifically ban girls who become pregnant or become mothers from school.

The reorganization agreement, which ties funds disbursements to meeting commitments and goals, provides for a “continuation of school policy” that governs how long pregnant teens can stay at their school before furlough and after what time they can return to class. The government has also pledged to ban “unsolicited pregnancy tests,” which are compulsory in the vast majority of secondary schools and are used to exclude pregnant students. The government will also set up a monitoring system to monitor both the return of girls to public institutions to continue their education and compliance by local authorities.

Government guidelines and accompanying measures should represent concrete and immediate measures to overcome the various obstacles faced by pregnant teenagers or mothers. The government must also take other measures to curb harmful systemic practices in its education system and strengthen protections for girls who conceive or give birth.

Tanzania should update the Education Act to remove the provisions of the Education Regulations 2002 (“Exclusion and exclusion of students from school”) that allow schools to exclude students who “undermine morals” or “have entered into marriage” as well as to eliminate the 2016 amendment to that law, which requires school principals to report marriages and pregnancies to district or area commissioners.

Human Rights Watch’s extensive research into laws protecting pregnant students’ right to education in more than thirty African Union countries found that the release of guidelines was often a stepping stone to the adoption of national legislation. In order to respect human rights, school continuation policies or policies should focus on supporting students to stay in school and minimizing the time of disruption in their school attendance.

Government should avoid imposing strict or onerous conditions that oblige adolescent girls to re-enter the facility, for example by imposing a mandatory or rigid time limit on the period of absence after childbirth. Your policy should also make special arrangements for young mothers in school, such as B. Breaks for breastfeeding, furlough if their baby is ill or needs to be taken to a medical service, and access to crèches or day care centers close to the facility.

The World Bank restructuring agreement also calls for the establishment of an operational team to develop the government’s Safe Schools program planned under the SEQUIP program to “ Creating a safe learning environment for students Reduce violence in secondary schools and strengthen support for adolescent girls.

Government should also establish a transparent accountability framework, including a system for handling grievances at school and national levels, and provide opportunities for students, civil society organizations, communities and other stakeholders to raise issues and concerns related to education.

Tanzania’s past policy of banning pregnant and child-bearing girls from schools has had disastrous results. The World Bank estimates that 6,500 pregnant schoolgirls drop out of school in Tanzania every year, while NGOs previously estimated that nearly 8,000 schoolgirls were forced to drop out of school every year.

« To ensure the successful implementation of the Keeping Girls in School policies, as well as other components related to its SEQUIP program, the government needs to create opportunities for consultation and ongoing dialogue with civil society organizations, expectant mothers and others affected by this program concluded Teresa Mutua, senior community assistant at Accountability Counsel. ” It is imperative for the government to ensure that any means of maintaining a dialogue really work. »

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