Written by Agnes Sanyangore
Can it be said just because l have fallen pregnant as a high school going girl then my dreams of obtaining education are scuppered? Am l am not going to be that Lawyer; Medical Doctor; Professor? Is it the end……? Does it mean all my aspirations and dreams have been crushed because l am now pregnant? But doesn’t pregnancy only show my fertility as a woman? In their quest for answers, many young women have shown signs of no hope and felt very defeated with life once they fell pregnant in school.
The questions above resonate with several girls either forcefully banned from attending school by their teachers and parents. Sometimes they have decided on their own to quit schooling due to pregnancy. Being pregnant while in high school is a significant challenge for many young girls. They are judged, stigmatised by their peers, family and society at large. It is even worse for those who may consider terminating their pregnancy, considering that termination is only allowed under extremely limited circumstances in Zimbabwe.
In 2018, 12.5 percent of school dropouts stopped attending classes due to pregnancy or marriage reasons. In 2019, 7000 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy countrywide. These figures are alarming, considering that the UNICEF strongly recommends that every girl has a right to education.
Are schools doing enough to encourage the young girls to stay in school? What about parents? But how can schools and parents encourage girls or support them if there are no active policies in place supporting them to stay in school?
In light of these issues, we have seen new developments within the government of Zimbabwe, amending the Education Act which now allows pregnant girls to attend school. The amended law has also abolished corporal punishment and the exclusion of students from school for non-payment of school fees.
Why am l excited about this new development? Allowing young girls who are pregnant to stay in school will encourage many girls to continue pursuing their education without being discriminated by law. This will result in several girls being able to achieve their DREAMS.
Again this new development indicates that the country is eliminating some of the barriers to gender equality and paving a way to attain the right to education for all.
“If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation”….Dr James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey.