It is Monday, January 17, 2022, a day that most girls will forever cherish as they get a second chance to re-live their dreams.
Not so long ago, in late 2021, under President Samia Suluhu Hassan, news that revived hope in so many young girls, the hope that they can finally relive their dreams and unlock their full potential was announced.
In 2002 a law that banned pregnant students from returning to government schools was enacted, and in 2017 it was reaffirmed again by the late President John Magufuli.
At Dodoma, the capital city of Tanzania, in November 2021, the then Education Minister Joyce Ndalichako announced that “pregnant school girls will be allowed to continue with formal education after delivery,” adding that the ministry will communicate more details.
The good news came in at a time when society needed it most. Some of these girls did not get pregnant out of their free will. Most girls in primary and secondary schools are underage, meaning they can easily be manipulated and cannot make mature decisions for themselves.
Denying them access to education is destroying their future and that of their babies.
The policy was to be implemented effective immediately with a few rules. Firstly pregnant students are not allowed to continue with their studies as “there are many activities which may or may not be favourable for pregnant girls,” said Leonard Akwilapo, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education.
He added that he also believes “the situation will not be favourable for the other pupils.”
And the other rule is that students return to school within two years after giving birth.
Today as many schools opened, girls country-wise, mothers whose dreams collapsed went back to classes, and those who dropped out for other reasons, including lack of funds, health or family issues, and many other reasons without including violence and threatening others lives.
A 19-year-old Esther (pseudonym), a mother of a four-year-old child, expressed how happy she was that girls could finally go back to school after giving birth.
Telling her story, Esther said she passed her standard seven exams and was to join form one at a school in her village. She then found out she was pregnant when she was joining form one and had to accept that her dream of becoming a teacher had ended.
Esther, who is currently a house helper trying to earn a living for herself, her child, and her parents, says that even if she cannot fit into the two years window, she is glad that other girls will be able to go back to school and pursue their dreams.
Parents and society need to protect the girls from the vultures within our communities. Even though these girls can go back to school, parenting can sometimes create turmoils for mothers emotionally, physically, and psychologically and it is not what these girls should go through at such a young age.