Zimbabwe government has made it unlawful for schools to expel pupils who get pregnant, a measure women’s rights campaigners said would help tackle gender inequality in the classroom and stop many girls from dropping out of Zimbabwe schools.
A legal amendment announced last week seeks to reinforce a 1999 guideline that was patchily implemented and comes as Zimbabwe school closures due to coronavirus raise fears of a rise in sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies.
Many parents of pregnant girls, or the girls themselves, decide to quit schooling due to the pregnancy, and schools do not always do enough to encourage them to stay, officials say.
“I’m expecting every parent and guardian and everyone else to understand that every child must be assisted by all of us to go to school,” Cain Mathema, the education minister in charge of Zimbabwe schools, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
“Every child whether boy or girl … has a right to go to school in Zimbabwe,” he said.
In 2018, 12.5 percent of the country’s roughly 57,500 school dropouts stopped attending classes due to pregnancy or marriage reasons – almost all of them girls, according to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education statistics.
Priscilla Misihairwabwi-Mushonga, an opposition legislator who chairs a parliamentary education committee, said making the previous guidelines into law with possible sanctions would make the rules more effective and address gender disparities.
“In circumstances where the pregnancy was a result of kids of the same age, the boy would not be necessarily expelled from school,” she said.
“It was also a double tragedy for the girl … as in most circumstances, it was not consensual sex but some sort of abuse by some predator older than her. So, she has been traumatized and raped then she is further traumatized by being kicked out of school.” Read here