Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
The Star

The Tanzanian president’s directive that teenage mothers should not be allowed back in public schools is troubling. The dreams and aspirations of a young girl must not to be sacrificed on the altar of adolescent misbehaviour.

President John Magufuli of Tanzania recently made known his stand on the proposition by civil society groups in the country for the enactment of laws that will enable unwed pregnant teenage girls to return back to school. For President Magufuli, that proposal is not acceptable because if Tanzania allows  unwed teenage mothers “back to school, one day we will find all girls who are in Standard One have babies”. President Magufuli further accused NGOs active in Tanzania, especially those funded externally, of being responsible for pushing the agenda.

Most certainly, quite a few foreign NGOs are notorious for funding and pushing ideas which many African communities consider detrimental to their overall advancement. However, in this instance, President Magufuli might - for several good reasons - do well to step back and reassess his professed stand on the issue, for the greater good of Tanzania.

First, the number of teenage girls who get pregnant does not represent the number who are sexually active; many more teenage girls are sexually active and many do not get pregnant or if they do, are quick to procure an abortion. Indeed, it can be inferred that it is the “good” girls who are not street-wise and unable to find their way to procure an abortion, or are too scared to attempt one, or those from wretchedly poor homes, who do not have the connections or money to procure an abortion or take birth control measures, who get pregnant. In essence, many pregnant teenage girls are often victims of circumstances who, if given the opportunity to return to school after childbirth, are sober and able invest their best in their academics.

Further, boys and men who get teenage girls pregnant still roam the school halls or the streets, and although President Magufuli recommends a jail term for such offenders. It is doubtful whether Tanzania is equipped with the resources to catch all guilty runaway fathers. Accurately establishing the paternity of a child in contemporary times requires DNA testing, which remains quite a costly procedure even in advanced societies. The end result is that while the male offenders move on to impregnate the next girl, their victims end up bearing the burden of the act for the rest of their lives.

The dreams and aspirations of a young teenage girl ought not be sacrificed on the altar of adolescent misdemeanor. A second chance should most definitely be extended to these young women to advance intellectually. Although there is no looking down on the Vocational Education Training Centers (VETC) which President Magufuli advocates for pregnant teen mothers, the important aspect here is that it is against the will of these young women.  Forcing them into VETC will lead to more disgruntled members of society; depressed mothers raise social deviants. If mothers feel that they have missed out on life as a result of their children, there is every tendency for this feeling to reflect in the child rearing practices they adopt.

On the other hand, statistics show that when women are economically and academically empowered, and indeed have a strong sense of self-fulfillment, they raise children who are able to contribute more to society. Since many teenage girls women who carry pregnancies to birth are those from poor homes, who are unable to afford the cost of abortion, education remains the only pathway available to them for transcending their socio-economic status. Cutting off this hope by sending them to VETC might have negative impacts on whole families and for generations to come.

President Magufuli’s emphasis, perhaps, should be on ensuring that Tanzania’s education system promotes values, morals and such norms that keep pupils and students grounded and focused on higher ideals. Extra-curricular activities that keep pupils and students busy outside of the classroom should be strongly encouraged in addition to appropriate sex education at the right age, with the values of abstinence promoted, since it is what Tanzanian society and culture places emphasis upon.  The Swahili proverb, alimao ndio avunao captures it aptly: what one cultivates is what one harvests. Tanzania should invest resources in the training and building of teenagers who focus on personal growth and national transformation in order to harvest the benefits accruable from such investments.

Follow Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu on [email protected] and Facebook www.facebook.com/chikaforafrica. She blogs at www.chikaforafrica.com

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to [email=[email protected]]editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org[/email] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

Comments (1)

  • Andrew Manyevere's picture
    Andrew Manyevere

    PRESIDENT MUFUNGULI IS RIGHT ON TEENAGE MOTHERS By Andrew M Manyevere (A comment to the article published in Pambazuka News #828 Confronting renewed Imperialist Aggression). Imperialism played down African culture and her moral principles to the dust bins of uncivilized Stone Age culture to which we need not bank anything on it as true. Taking President Mufunguli thought process shallowly would make us conclude harshly to an otherwise well position argument of train up a child and he/she walks in the way. If we have to chat our forum and mode of development based on our values then President Mufunguli has to be seen in the context of society preserved its morality by deterrent measures in his arguments than emotional context of gender outlook. To argue that putting students who have come in breach of schools regulation into Vocational Educational Technical Colleges (VTEC) is wrong is like asking for no option for anyone who might have made a genuine mistake to advance in education if she has intellectual capacity. We must consider that society traditionally was united on measures that need be taken in the event misbehaviour is spotted at family level as at village and school level. That it tended to favour males at women expense both socially and economically is what the president suggests needs counteracting with a jail term sentence for careless boys when it is proven that he was instrumental in inducing the girl into premarital sex unwillingly. It is this united stance needed now as it was then to help reduce community social deviants’ behavioural patterns. We also concede to the fact that, then, the social fabric of our cultural dominance and strength within families was too advanced regarding roles of antes, grandmothers and extended family systems. Aggressive advent in new norms in civilization at the colonization stages obviously was a great setback in emotional intellectualism in our cultural outlook. I am convinced that Dr. Chika is in agreement with President Mufunguli thought process here when she suggests as she has ably done below: “President Magufuli’s emphasis, perhaps, should be on ensuring that Tanzania’s education system promotes values, morals and such norms that keep pupils and students grounded and focused on higher ideals. Extra-curricular activities that keep pupils and students busy outside of the classroom should be strongly encouraged in addition to appropriate sex education at the right age, with the values of abstinence promoted, since it is what Tanzanian society and culture places emphasis upon. The Swahili proverb, alimao ndio avunao captures it aptly: what one cultivates is what one harvests. Tanzania should invest resources in the training and building of teenagers who focus on personal growth and national transformation in order to harvest the benefits accruable from such investments.” There is great room for thinking and accommodation for different views without meeting animosity from a rampaging president who believes his views has monopoly when it comes to policy making in Tanzania and I admire the ability of a president to welcome open debate on policy processes. This is special and needs upholding as well as a lot of encouragement from African scholars as well as from civil servants and politicians. While it is true that some none governmental organization hope to derive their agendas home through financing of projects there is nothing averse too in governments reviewing funding from a national interest perspective and guide participants accordingly. What becomes nauseating is when governments seek to be corrupted by receiving concealed fees to reviewing and accepting funding from a donor. Lastly I think that the educational strategy in coming up with a policy position on restraining students mischievous behavioural patterns would be to work hand in glove with parents generally so that interactive roles between parents and children can be increased. With intense sophistication in child outsider communication access through Science Technology developments Africa needs improve her communication skills from a cultural point of view with our children increasing their sense of self identity and empowerment. Too much borrowed ideas pass through our children without any counteractive correction making them believe in some harmful ideas innocently putting them into hardships which interfere with their future development. If community, for example, works on what she considers good and agree to tie it upon her citizens that is how good is build up. Tanzania has always opened new chapters in history including standing up for the oppressed in a unique way contrary to OAU then now AU. She has never gone wrong not because she cannot make mistakes but because her nation work as one even if there are difficulties along the way. Africa needs resolve now than ever to build a strong future for the generation of our children and grandchildren. No room for self-pity but strong sense of direction is needed or else the very Imperialism we want to blame will take over every sense of our being. The next few years in history will either see Africa distinguish herself as a player in international politics or she remains a subservient servant of development for ever. Mufunguli is breaking the tradition by looking back and improve upon our history using modern methods of social networking to develop new modalities in political processes that augurs well for good governance and behaviour patterns development.

    Jul 02, 2017