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Tanzanian teen mothers can now go to school as controversial ban is lifted

Tanzania’s John Magufuli had vowed that no pregnant student would finish studies (Representational)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:

Tanzania said on Wednesday it would allow pregnant students and teenage mothers to continue their studies, reversing a heavily criticized policy instituted by its late autocratic leader John Magufuli.

In 2017, the East African country began removing pregnant girls from state schools and banning them from returning to class after giving birth, sparked by rights activists.

Following Magufuli’s death earlier this year, his successor Samiya Suluhu Hassan called for a break from some of his policies and on Wednesday Education Minister Joyce Nadlichko said “pregnant school girls should be allowed to continue formal education after delivery”. will be given.”

“I will issue a circular later today. There is no time to wait,” she said at a function in the capital, Dodoma.

Magufuli swore that no student who became pregnant would complete her studies under her care, saying it was immoral for young girls to be sexually active.

“I give a student money to study for free. And then, she gets pregnant, gives birth and then returns to school. No, not under my orders,” he said in mid-2017.

The decision was widely criticized by human rights lobby groups and international donors, who cut their funding to the country in response to Magufuli’s policies.

At the time, Human Rights Watch published a report that said school officials in Tanzania were conducting pregnancy tests to weed out pregnant students, denying them their right to education.

‘Welcome Stage’

The World Bank, which withheld a $300 million loan for girls’ education in protest against the ban, hailed Wednesday’s decision.

“The World Bank welcomes the Tanzanian government’s announcement of removing barriers to access to education,” it said in a statement.

The Swedish embassy in Dar es Salaam, which last year cut its funding to Tanzania citing shrinking independence, also praised the move.

“For many girls this is a welcome move, allowing them to use their full potential,” the embassy said on Twitter.

The opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Vajalendo) said his effort to reverse the policy had paid off.

“We did it! One struggle, a clear example of many fronts. Everyone involved did something towards this achievement,” said ACT Vazalendo leader Zito Kabwe.

Covid-skeptic Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, died of a heart ailment on March 17 after a mysterious three-week absence. His political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.

In the weeks following his swearing-in, his successor Hassan reached political opposition in Tanzania, vowing to defend democracy and basic liberties and reopen restricted media outlets.

But hopes Hassan will usher in a new era, fueled by the arrest of a high-profile opposition leader on terrorism charges and crackdowns on independent newspapers.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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