The government has been challenged to provide care for teenage girls who drop out of school after falling pregnant so that they continue with their education, a study released this week has revealed.
This followed reports that government policies overlooked the need for education for pregnant teenagers who fall prey to abuse.
According to Sexual Health and HIV/Aids Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR Zimbabwe) research portfolio manager Zivai Mupambireyi, Zimbabwe recorded an increase in pregnancies among adolescents during the COVID-19 period.
“The fact that adolescents were out of school for a long period mainly contributed to the pregnancies. The adolescents are left on their own in child-headed households and they end up taking risky measures,” he said.
“In short, we are seeing that the bulk of the pregnancies are happening (in) around 15 to 19-year-olds, we are also beginning to see the 10 to 14-year-olds falling pregnant.”
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, “the State must take measures to ensure that girls are afforded the same opportunities as boys to obtain education at all levels.”
The education-inclusive step taken by amending the Education Act and adding section 68C, which states that “No pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of school fees or on the basis of pregnancy,” is one such legislative measure to promote equal access to education for both girls and boys.
According to the Primary and Secondary Education ministry (2019) data: “Pregnancy was the reason for 14,93% of dropouts during the study period.”
The necessity for a policy to include pregnant students was evident given the percentage.
However, effective implementation of this clause faces hurdles.
In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Teachers Association national secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said government used a circular that was outdated.
“According to that circular even if the girl child falls pregnant, the child can still be reintegrated at the same school where they were,” he said.
“Districts are making campaigns to educate the community as to the procedures that can be followed once such situations arise, what is critical is also to go via the radio, social media and television to educate parents when such situations arise.”