The Sunday Mail
Girls who fall pregnant during the course of their studies are set to enjoy ‘maternity vacation’ before returning to continue with their education after giving birth.
The privileges are provided in the Education Bill that is currently under debate in the National Assembly, where legislators are showing support for the clause.
Advocates of girl child rights have also hailed the proposals they describe as positive in affording the girls a chance to continue with studies.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima recently told legislators that allowing the girls to take a vacation and continue with studies was in line with the National Constitution that advocates non-discrimination.
“There is an issue that has generated a lot of interest among the parliamentarians; and this is the issue of exclusion on account of pregnancy, and the fundamental basis of the inclusion of this issue is premised on Section 75 of the Constitution, which speaks against discrimination,” said Minister Mavima.
“The current practice in our education system has it that if two form four learners have an affair and end up impregnating each other — the male student can continue with his education, but the female student cannot, yet section 75 of our Constitution bans discrimination on the basis of gender or sex and it is the basis upon which this item was included in our Bill.”
A number of pregnant girls drop out of school because of current policies that bar them from studies whilst expecting.
Parliament instituted public hearings on the Education Amendment Bill with various stakeholders seconding the provision to allow pregnant learners to take a break and resume studies after birth.
MDC-T Bulawayo National Assembly proportional representation member Ms Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga told The Sunday Mail that; “All we are doing is to give a chance not only to the girl, but to the unborn child.
“Those who impregnate, are usually your older selfish predatory males who go scotfree and never help with anything.
She added that society must move away from entirely blaming and punishing the pregnant learners.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana executive director Mrs Ukenia Chifamba-Chidodo said education was key in fighting inequalities between girls and boys.
She welcomed the move to afford pregnant school girls a chance to education.
“With such high records in teen pregnancy, it means we are losing so many girls as they often drop out from school because of pregnancy,” said Mrs Chifamba-Chododo.
“We believe education is the most important right that should be a source of weapon to fight any form of inequality.
“Girls always bear the burden of carrying the pregnancy and dropping out of school while the boy child is safe and continues with education.”
According to a Ministry of Health and Child Care, United Nations Population Fund and Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council latest report, 19 percent of female adolescents between 15-19 years are pregnant.
Lawyer and gender equality activist Ms Jessie Majome hailed the move of maternity leave for school girls.
“It is a positive development that goes beyond paying lip service to the constitutional guarantees to the rights to education, of the child, and to equality and protection from discrimination.
Zimbabwe has recorded the highest teen pregnancy rate in Sub-Saharan Africa with figures of between 500 000 and 700 000 annually in 2017 statistics.