Tanzania to allow students to attend school after giving birth

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The government reversed the controversial 2017 policy instituted by the country’s late leader John Magufuli.

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The Tanzanian government has said it will allow teenage mothers to continue their studies after giving birth, reversing a heavily criticized policy implemented by former President John Magufuli.

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Human rights campaigners accused Tanzania of discrimination in 2017 after Magufuli supported the expulsion of pregnant girls from state schools and their prevention from returning to class after giving birth – a 1961 policy.

Following Magufuli’s death earlier this year, his successor Samiya Suluhu Hassan has sought to break away from some of his policies. On Wednesday, Education Minister Joyce Nadlichko said that “pregnant school girls will be allowed to continue formal education after delivery”.

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

Magufuli vowed 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 money to a student to study for free. And then, she gets pregnant, gives birth and after that, goes back to school. No, not under my mandate,” he said in mid-2017.

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

At the time, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report stating that school authorities in Tanzania were conducting pregnancy tests to deny pregnant students their right to education.

The World Bank withheld a $300 million loan for girls’ education in protest of the ban.

The decision to lift the ban was welcomed by the Swedish embassy in Dar es Salaam, which last year cut its funding to Tanzania, citing shrinking freedoms.

“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 has paid off.

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

A COVID-suspected Magufuli died of a heart condition on March 17 after a mysterious absence of three weeks. His political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.

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

But Hassan is expected to usher in a new era, fueled by the arrest of a high-profile opposition leader on terror charges and crackdowns on independent newspapers.

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