11.25.2021 – PRESS STATEMENT: The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania, and the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) is pleased to learn that the United Republic of Tanzania has finally ended the oppressive and grossly discriminatory school policy barring pregnant schoolgirls and adolescent mothers from continuing with their formal education.
The public declaration by the Minister for Education, Professor Joyce Ndalichako, sends a strong signal to the schoolgirls and adolescent mothers that President Samia Suluhu’s administration is committed to ending the many regressive barriers that for years have undermined their fundamental rights to education, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.
“While this verbal announcement by the Minister for Education demonstrates political goodwill towards ending systemic exclusion and discrimination of schoolgirls within Tanzania’s school system, it must be backed by written policy or guidelines, if not the law,” said Fulgence Massawe, Director of Advocacy and Reforms at the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). “In practice, this means public schools in Tanzania must stop expelling pregnant girls and start admitting adolescents.”
The unexpected development comes just days after hearings in a case brought by the Center and LHRC at the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) against Tanzania. The organizations filed this case on behalf of six Tanzanian girls who were expelled from school for being pregnant. The case challenges multiple human rights and gender equality violations against schoolgirls, including mandatory pregnancy testing, expulsion of pregnant girls, denial of an education post-childbirth, illegal detention of pregnant girls, and the lack of access to reproductive and sexual health information and services in schools. The case is seeking lasting change in Tanzania, secured into government policy or law.
Data from Tanzania’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training reveals that in 2012, 2,433 girls dropped out of primary school while 4,705 dropped out of secondary school due to pregnancy. Tanzania also has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with 37% of girls marrying before the age of 18, which automatically subjects them to school expulsions based on nationwide school policy.
Evelyne Opondo, Senior Regional Director for Africa at Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) said “Tanzania will be fulfilling its obligations to the multiple regional and international human rights instruments if the current administration permanently reverses oppressive and discriminatory education policies. While today’s news is very welcome, we will continue to pursue our case until this change is lasting and permanent.”
Besides the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), United Republic of Tanzania has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Maputo Protocol. All these legal instruments bind Tanzania to uphold the sanctity of all rights that pertain to women and girls.
Kennedy Arthur Wekesa KWekesa@reprorights.org