The universal right to education has been officially legislated as a right in virtually all countries. However, the implementation of the right greatly varies from region to region, and so does the education policies. Most people from developed countries enjoy the right to education as their governments provide an enabling environment for both public and private learning institutions. In Africa, tens of thousands of girls are barred from accessing learning institutions due to a myriad of reasons. The most prone victim are girls who get pregnant while in school since they are in most cases forced to abandon their education. The girls are forced to stay at home and are often married off to suitors who are in most times selected by the girls' parents. Some of the reasons why girls in African countries such as Tanzania are barred from school include child marriages, menstrual health management and social safety in schools. The situation requires a speedy address to improve the education standards in Africa and eradicate poverty that continues to cripple development in most African countries. The barring of pregnant African girls from attending school is a direct violation of Article 26 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the research paper will delve deeper into the factors for and against education for pregnant teenagers in African countries. Background InformationHakiElimu is a Tanzanian community service organization that champions for equity, critical thinking, and creativity in the Tanzanian education system. The organization conducted research and found out that at least 8,000 girls are forced to abandon their studies due to early pregnancies (Global Campaign for Education, 2018). 30% of the girls were noted to drop out of secondary school institutions. As of 2011, 84% of schools in Tanzania had no facilities for handwashing, and about 86% lacked access to clean water (Global Campaign for Education, 2018). The statistics point out to the weak infrastructure in the Tanzanian education system which couples with inadequate social and legal protection to make pregnant Tanzanian girls disadvantaged over their male counterparts. Additionally, the education system in Tanzania lacks a re-entry strategy for girls who successfully raise their children and desire to continue with their studies (Global Campaign for Education, 2018).
In 2017, HakiElimu conducted research that focused solely on the re-entry of mothering teenagers into the education system. The study aimed at proposing and developing education policies that would revolutionalize the perception that girls had on the education system (Global Campaign for Education, 2018). The study would employ the use of public policy in monitoring the progress of their country towards achieving the right to education for all. HakiElimu sensitized people to give their opinions regarding the subject of education for pregnant girls. Most people supported the idea of having provisions in the education system that allowed girls who had dropped out of school due to pregnancy to re-enter the system. However, a few people opposed the move. The organization further called out to members of parliament who would support the movement to change the education system, and 23 members endorsed the organization. 2 members of parliament raised the guidelines for reentering the education system during the setting of the education budget in parliament. The Tanzanian President, John Magufuli later announced that girls who left school due to pregnancy would not be allowed back into the education system (Global Campaign for Education, 2018).
Reasons Why Pregnant Girls are Barred from Schools
The fundamental obstacle to providing equal education opportunities to girls and boys is child marriages. Every year, more than 15 million girls who are under the age of 18 years are married worldwide (Paddison, 2017) A perpetrator of the right to education for marginalized girls noted that "if you can't afford it you will then have to make a choice... they feel [marriage] is the best option within the limited options" (Paddison, 2017). The reasons why girls are involved in early marriages include common misconceptions such as the belief that girls as not as valuable as boys in some African countries. The Girls Effect's Yegna is an initiative that seeks to promote the education of Ethiopian girls. The initiative used music and radio to create public awareness on the subject of educating girls. The shows were renowned in Addis Ababa, and the public opinion regarding girls' education significantly improved. The initiative found out that 53% of teenage males were not aware of its existence but would report instances of child marriage to the authorities. The show was continually aired, and the figure rose to 95% of boys supporting the move to eradicate early marriages (Paddison, 2017).
Although early marriages have deep roots in African societies, poverty plays a critical role in the development of the institution. Most African communities lack financial security and education in the social fabric is divided into those who can afford and those who cannot afford it (One, 2017). Elite parents mostly from urban and semi-urban places such as Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam in Africa consider their children equal in education and take both girls and boy to quality schools. However, the case is completely different in most rural areas. Most rural areas face challenges in the providence of social amenities, and the few services present are often poor in quality. For example, the Maasai pastoral community in Tanzania and Kenya are known to marry off their girls at teenage to suitors selected by the girl's parents. Most parents in such communities consider their girls as sources of wealth which can only be actualized through marriage (Porter et al., 2016). The men who marry the young girls often offer livestock herds as dowry ensuring continuity of the violation of girls' right to education.
Menstrual Health Management
The onset of menstruation leads to a critical stress point for girls. They face challenges such as lack of sanitary towels, lack of proper infrastructure such as separate gender washrooms, unsupportive teachers and mocking from classmates (Paddison, 2017). The challenges disrupt the girls' ability to participate in learning actively. Researchers from Colombia University noted that some girls considered talking about menstruation as a vice (Paddison, 2017). They stressed that menstruation brought them embarrassment and they also had access to limited knowledge regarding menstrual management for health and comfort.
The challenge of undergoing menstruation while at school has for long been identified as a critical cause of violation of the right to education for African girls. Successive governments in Tanzania and Ethiopia have planned special budgets to buy and supply the girls at schools with sanitary towels (Paddison, 2017). However, the initiatives are often short-lived, and the proceeds from donors and non-governmental organizations are often mismanaged through corrupt and unscrupulous dealings. The girls stay at school when provided with sanitary towels and stay at home when the services do not reach their schools or households. Moreover, African girls are not empowered to champion for their rights and positions in society. A victim of discrimination due to pregnancy noted that "if you do have a baby, then you should go back to school after the birth. There's no need to feel ashamed. Mistakes are human" (Human Rights Watch, 2018) indicating that mothering teens feel ashamed of their actions. Gender bias is evident in most social structures of African countries and females are generally disadvantaged over the males. The height of the problem is further escalated by the lack of opportunity for girls from rural areas to express their views on education and call out to the government to respect and uphold their rights. The lack of exposure to a world where girls and boys compete effectively makes girls fall back to the comfort of their homes where less judgment is rendered regarding their menstrual health.
Lack of Safe and Supportive Learning Places
Gender-based violence continues to prevail in some African countries. Girls in these countries cannot be comfortable at school since the general society is against their pursuit of education. A report by the United Nations in 2013 noted that gender-based violence was rampant in Liberia. The perpetrators of the right to education said that "We know that there are some really, really negative experiences around school" (Paddison, 2017). The teenage girls in most institutions of higher learning were being pressured to have sexual relations with their lecturers in exchange for good grades. The problem was deep-rooted that girls believed that It was impossible to pass the exams without surrendering their dignity. The sexual encounters led to unwanted pregnancies since the girls in that country receive little or no sex education until adulthood.
In most African countries, girls in rural areas are involved in domestic duties and have little exposure to modern campaigns on education for all. A project known as Girl Effect was launched in Nigeria to reach out to girls in rural areas. The rural areas are often remote and with little infrastructure that the communities do not often travel from one place to another. As a result, the girls lacked exposure and rejoiced in the misguided notion that educating the boychild was more reasonable than educating the girlchild (Paddison, 2017). The lack of awareness in such communities makes it hard to advance gender-equality campaigns since the girls are not empowered to be visionary. Enhancement of safety against gender-based violence in African schools would significantly reduce the number of teenage girls who are forced out of school due to early pregnancies. Solutions for the Human Rights Violation in Africa
On the 22nd of June 2017, the fight for the right to education for pregnant teenagers in Tanzania took a huge blow when the president openly rejected them from the education system. President, John Magufuli said that during his term, no pregnant student would be allowed to continue with her studies (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Furthermore, it was reported that law enforcement officials used to harass the pregnant girls and their families forcing them to reveal the man behind the pregnancy. The responsible men were often exploited and asked for bribes to ensure legal immunity. The problem can be addressed by adopting the following solutions:
HakiElimu proposed parliamentary engagement in the education sector to build long lasting strategies. The initiative recommended engaging the MPs who support their initiative in setting aside parliamentary sessions to deliberate on the subject and decide the budgetary allocation (Global Campaign for Education, 2018). Under development of infrastructure is one of the primary reasons for the violation of the rights of pregnant African girls. The parliamentary engagement would ensure that the girls have a voice in the national government. For example, the MPs could pass present special motions that aim at setting aside special needs budgets to provide girls with materials such as sanitary towels and gender-specific washrooms in school to relieve them of the trauma (Bray & Lillis, 2016). Furthermore, HakiElimu noted that poverty contributed directly to the number of teenage pregnancies in a community most girls were impregnated by older men who deceived them with favors and sometimes marriage. Building allies would introduce more players into the campaign for African girls and enhance the services offered. For example, allies f...
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