Tanzania (EN)

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Policy Brief

An Overview of Existing Policies and Practice on Re-entry Policies for Teenage Mothers in Tanzania

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This policy brief highlights existing policies and practice on school re-entry for teenage mothers in the United Republic of Tanzania. It draws from the country research and report on school re-entry policies for teenage mothers in the country. It looks at existing institutional frameworks – including laws, policies and guidelines. It then examines the functionality of existing institutional frameworks. Based on this analysis, the document concludes by providing recommendations that ought to be considered to bring the school re-entry policy landscape on teenage mothers in Tanzania to comply with agreed international norms and standards in upholding the educational rights of teenage mothers.

The Education Sector

The education sector in Tanzania is organised into five main clusters: basic and compulsory education comprising of preprimary education (one year), primary education (seven years) and ordinary secondary education (four years); advanced secondary education, consisting of two years; technical and vocational education and training (including teacher education); adult education and non formal education; and higher education. The implementation of the Fee-Free Basic Education Program (FBEP) is a key element of the government’s overall strategy to improve education outcomes and accelerate growth. The Fee-Free Basic Education Program was introduced in 2016 to enable Tanzania to universalize 12 years of basic education and eliminate both informal fees in government primary schools and formal tuition fees for lower secondary government schools. Early signs show that the policy is encouraging many more children to start and stay inschool.1

The Education Sector Development Plans (ESDP) – 2016/17 – 2020/21 for Tanzania Mainland envisions that by 2025, the offer of basic education will cover all children of the relevant age. It is expected that, by 2025, 90% of children who enter primary education will have benefited from one year of preprimary schooling, that causes of dropout will be addressed and that dropout rates will have decreased significantly, and that the promotion rate between Cycle 1 and 2 will reach 90% by 202.2 The FBEP and ESDP, if implemented effectively, will address the gaps identified in the TDHS (2015-16), which estimated that net attendance ratio drops from 76% in primary schools to 23% in secondary schools, and that girls

are more likely to attend primary school than boys, whereas there are no major differences by gender in secondary school attendance.

The Context of Teenage Pregnancy – Trends, Drivers and Existing Policy Responses

Teenage pregnancy remains a major development problem in Tanzania. It is estimated that 27 percent of teenage girls in the country aged between 15 and 19 years were already mothers or pregnant with the first child (MoHCDGEC, 2016, cited in Niboye, 2018).3 This represents a marked increase from 2010, when only about 23 percent of teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 years had begun child bearing. The regions with high percentages of teenage pregnancy in Tanzania include Katavi (45.1%), Tabora (42.6%), Dodoma (38.6%), Morogoro (38.5%), Mara (37.4%), Shinyanga (33.5%), Mbeya (33%), Ruvuma and Kigoma (32%) and Pwani (30) and Mjini Magharibi (5%) in Zanzibar, according to TDHS2015-16.4

It is difficult to get the most recent estimates of teenage pregnancies, which are thought to have spiked in the midst of COVID-19. Media reports indicate that 190 girls in Pwani region became pregnant in 2020, with Kisarawe registering the highest number of pregnancies. The World Bank estimates that roughly 5,5005 girls drop out of school due to teenage pregnancies, even though Human Rights Watch, citing a different data source, estimates pregnancy related dropouts per year to be 8,000.6 The difficulty in obtaining the most current official statistics on teenage pregnancies, and on teenage pregnancy related dropouts has created room mushrooming unofficial estimates, which differ markedly from government statistics. For instance, one study claimed that 44% of adolescent girls in mainland Tanzania have either given birth or are pregnant by the time they turn 19.7 Another study estimates that in 2016, 12 percent of secondary school female drop-out was due topregnancy.

Accurate data on teenage pregnancy and the attendant drop out by girls was difficult to obtain under the previous regime, because of the government’s stance on teenage pregnancy. At the micro level, this is compounded by the shame and

1 Al-Samarrai,Samer; Tamagnan,Marie Evane.2019, Gender Equity and Fee-Free Basic Education in Tanzania (English). Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/356111553606355438/Gender-Equity-and-Fee-Free-Basic-Education-in-Tanzania


3 Elliott P. Niboye; Back to School after Delivery, the Plight of Teenage Mothers in Zanzibar: Experiences from Mjini Magharibi’s Urban and West Districts in Unguja, in International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education (IJHSSE) Volume 5, Issue 3, March 2018, PP 54-67 ISSN 2349-0373 (Print) & ISSN 2349-0381(Online) http://dx.doi.org/10.20431/2349-0381.0503006 www.arcjournals.org

4 Ibid

5 https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/factsheet/2020/03/31/tanzania-secondary-education-quality-improvement-program-sequip

6 https://www.hrw.org/sw/news/2020/04/24/341242

7 Forced out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools: THE CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

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stigma the phenomenon evokes, and the fact that many teenage pregnancies are never reported or recorded. Government statistics on secondary school drop-out only record truancy, death and pregnancy as causes for drop-out. Truancy, which is likely to cover many different reasons, accounts for over 90 percent of all dropouts. In 2015, 3,439 girls reported dropping out of secondary school because of pregnancy. While the information is relatively old, the 2006 household budget survey shows that a further five percent drop-out because they get married.8

Teenage pregnancy and early marriages affect education outcomes. Almost one-third of Tanzanian women marry before the age of 18. It has been established that for every year that a girl marries before the age of 18, the likelihood of completing secondary school is reduced by six percentage points. Al-Samarrai and Tamagnan (2019, see endnotes) cite a recent study which found that socio-cultural norms such as girls’ lack of agency, the institution of bride price and religious preferences contribute to the propensity for girls to get married early and discontinue their schooling. A household’s socio-economic status can also be a driver of early marriage, with girls being pressured to relieve the financial burdens a family may have by marryingearly.

Teenage pregnancy, often a consequence of early marriage, also has serious implications for girls. In mainland Tanzania, particularly for girls whose parents cannot afford private school, falling pregnant means the end of any chance of completing their basic education.

The Education Regulations Act (Expulsion and Exclusion of pupils from schools No. 295) of 2002 states that students can be expelled if they are married or commit a criminal offense, including an offense against morality.

While teenage pregnancy is not mentioned explicitly, it is interpreted by education officials in their duties as an offense against morality. The existing policy practice, though it has become more accommodative in the current regime, prevents young mothers from returning to government schooling after giving birth. Girls that have been pregnant have extremely low attendance rates compared with the average girl. Besides, pregnant girls are required and are often compelled to reveal the identity of the men who made them pregnant, who face up to 30 years in jail if they are convicted of the offence. Most girls therefore either refuse to reveal the identity of the men who made them pregnant, or choose to quietly leave school before the pregnancy isdiscovered.

In 2009 Guidelines for enabling teenage mothers were developed, but it seems that they were neither adopted nor implemented, probably prompting another round of consultations which led to the Guidelines on How to Enable Pregnant School Girls to Return to School and Resume their Studies of February 2016. Just like the 2009 guidelines, the 2016 version provides only one re-entry opportunity for both


the pregnant teenager and the school boy responsible for the pregnancy within the school cycle. Unlike the 2009 version, the 2016 Guidelines are more detailed, having benefited from broader consultations with different stakeholders. The policy stipulates that teenage mothers can resume learning six months after delivery, if they are medically fit, but this must be at the beginning of the school year. Where pregnancy is detected close to national examinations, the pregnant teenager should as much as is medically feasible be advised to sit for theexaminations.

The pregnant school girl is required to write a formal letter on an approved template informing the school head and other education authorities of her commitment to return to school after delivery. Within the six months to one year after delivery, the teenage mother is again required to write another letter to the school head, indicating her readiness and intention to resume learning. The school girl has the choice of going back to her former school, or getting admission in another school, or pursuing another (formal/informal) mode of education. The girl is also required to disclose the person responsible for the pregnancy, and if she is reluctant, the Guidelines provide for guidance and counselling so that she can make the disclosure for legal action to be taken against theperpetrator.

In cases where pregnancy is caused by a school boy, the boy is to be suspended for 6 months. He must similarly write to the school head before suspension, and when he is about to be readmitted. In case the school boy contests his responsibility for the pregnancy, he may be required to undergo a DNA test. The family of the boy responsible for the pregnancy is required to assume responsibility for caring for the young mother, as well as bearing the costs of the baby’s delivery services through the village government/social welfare officer.

School heads are required to keep records and submit to the educational authorities all information provided by pregnant school girls, boys responsible for the pregnancy and readmission of teenage mothers. Schools should additionally provide guidance and counselling to teenage girls to encourage them to stay longer in school, and to resume their studies six months after delivery. Guidance and counselling is to be offered to the pregnant teenager on health matters, and her future development, including counselling parents or guardians to take care of the pregnant teenager/teenage mother without stigma and discrimination. For preventative measures, schools are required to offer age appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, and to encourage children to engage in co- curricular activities. On paper, these draft Guidelines seemed progressive, and could have offered great strides in tackling readmission for teenage mothers. In the absence of their adoption and full implementation, a blanket policy of expulsion continued to beapplied.

Hitherto, schools have engaged in unorthodox mandatory pregnancy testing of female students, often carried out

Al-Samarrai,Samer; Tamagnan,Marie Evane.2019, op. cit.
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simultaneously on all adolescent girls in a particular grade or school. The draft guidelines developed in 20169 sought to address these compulsory testing, offering instead that school girls either disclose their pregnancy, or if discovered by the school, the girl voluntarily visits a health facility to undergo confirmatory pregnancy test. The draft Guidelines on How to Enable Pregnant School Girls to Return to School and Resume their Studies were never adopted in practice, and therefore, it is to be expected that the practice of mandatory testing prevails at both primary and secondary school levels.

The compulsory pregnancy testing is administered to all female students, not just those suspected to be pregnant. The most common testing method used by schools and health care providers seems to be a physically invasive manual procedure, which involves a teacher or health care provider pinching, squeezing, and kneading a female student’s abdomen and sometimes her breasts to determine pregnancy. These methods are not an accepted medical practice; further, manual testing in any form is not an effective screening procedure for pregnancy prior to the second trimester. Schools prefer it because, unlike a urine pregnancy test, it can be performed free of charge. The use of this method for purely financial reasons reflects the punitive and disciplinary nature of forced testing10.

These practices go against international norms and standards. More pointedly, they violate rights of the child, as enshrined in the Tanzania Law of the Child Act [CAP. 13 R.E. 2019].11 The Act states specifically that:

Protection from torture and degrading treatment

13.- (1) A person shall not subject a child to torture, nor other cruel, inhuman punishment or degrading treatment including any cultural practice which dehumanizes or is injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a child.

(2) No correction of a child is justifiable which is unreasonable in kind or in degree according to the age, physical and mental condition of the child and no correction is justifiable if the child is by reason of tender age or otherwise incapable of understanding the purpose of thecorrection.

(3) The term “degrading treatment” as used in this section means an act done to a child with the intention of humiliating or lowering his dignity.

14. A person who contravenes any provision of this Part, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

The policy regimes on teenage pregnancy and resumption of schooling are more enabling for Tanzania isles of Zanzibar. In the year 2005, the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar

(RGZ) enacted a law called Spinsters and Single Parent Children Protection Act Number 4 of 2005 The law allows girls who fall pregnant while in primary and secondary schools to continue with their studies after delivery. In spite of this enabling policy provision and the

supportive legal context, many teenage girls who fall pregnant while in primary and secondary schools in Zanzibar still drop out of school every year (Niboye, 2018, see endnotes for full reference).

There is some evidence that in most cases, the return to school of the teenage mothers is not smooth as expected and many fail to progress to upper secondary and higher education due to various individual, institutional and sociocultural reasons. Niboye (2018, see endnotes) observes that teenage mothers who are in more supportive relationships, either through marriage or parental support, are more likely to resume their studies after delivery. He also notes no major handicaps in academic performance by teenage mothers; in fact he avers that those with ample support excel in their studies. One drawback of the policy in Zanzibar is that girls have only one chance of pregnancy. A girl who gets pregnant twice forfeits her chance to continue with her education.


The following recommendations are offered, based on the analysis of and reflection on the evidence.

1. There is a dearth of current data on the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and school dropouts due to pregnancy. The most recent publicly available data is from the TDHS of 2015-2016. The findings of this study reveal that schools do not keep an accurate record of girls who dropout due to pregnancy. Health facility data may also be incomplete: not all teenage girls report to, or deliver at health facilities, especially in rural areas. It is important to conduct a national survey on the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and pregnancy related school dropout to enable effectiveplanning.

2. The draft re-entry Guidelines of 2016 appear more progressive than any other policy so far pursued with regard to the rights of pregnant school girls and teenage mothers to continue with their education. These guidelines need revision, adoption, and implementation. The revisions to the guidelines could consider removing the requirements for teenage mothers having to request permission for readmission, teenage boys responsible for pregnancy being suspended, and the need for medical certification, in keeping with international norms and standards. In the revised Guidelines, the default option should be readmission into public primary or secondary school, whichever is applicable, unless the teenage mother explicitly opts for alternative modes of learning.

9 Guidelines on How to Enable Pregnant School Girls to Return to School and Resume their Studies, February 2016.

10 Forced out; op. cit.

11 Law of the Child Act [CAP. 13 R.E. 2019] https://tanzlii.org/tz/legislation/act/2019-9

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3. The positive elements in the Guidelines of 2016 should be retained. These include encouraging girls to stay longer in school as far as it is medically feasible, providing of psychosocial support, guidance and counselling to teenagers on discovery of pregnancy, during pregnancy, on after delivery and on resumption of learning. Equally progressive are the proposed preventative measures to discourage and forestall teenage pregnancies. Revising the guidelines to require schools to enforce mechanisms for preventing stigma and discrimination of pregnant teenage school girls and teenage mothers, creation of peer support clubs in schools, and stronger teacherparent engagement mechanisms to encourage girls to continue with their education are further additional important measures totake.

4. There should be concerted broad-based collaboration and coordinated action amongst education sector stakeholders to ensure that a policy exists on teenage mothers’ re- entry to schools. The Education and Training Policy (Sera ya Elimu na Mafunzo) 2014, and the Education Sector Development Plan 2016/17-2020/21 have no explicit policies on teenage pregnancy and how to address its effects on learning. Such broad- based

collaboration and coordination should focus on the development of a policy framework on teenage pregnancy and re-entry, revision of the 2016 Guidelines to bring them into conformity with international norms and standards, and for publicizing and rolling out the implementation of the policy and guidelines, including monitoring their effectiveimplementation.

5. The contextual drivers of teenage pregnancy should be addressed to strengthen a preventative rather than reactive approach to dealing with teenage pregnancy. As a first and important step, comprehensive sexuality education should be introduced across all levels of education, with content appropriately targeted based on a child’s age.

6. There is need to campaign for harmonization of the marriage and children’s act laws. Tanzania should standardize and harmonize the age of marriage at 18 years, in keeping with international norms and standards. Equally, for girls who are already married, providing a single opportunity for pregnancy within the school cycle is highly discriminatory.

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