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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

School pregnancies: A call for reflection on teachers` morality

18th May 2011
Schoolgirls: Some are falling victims to some teachers who have stooped too low in moral standing.

According the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, during the period of five-years, between 2004 and 2008, a total of 28,590 schoolgirls in the country dropped out of school as a result of unwanted pregnancy, 11,599 being secondary school students and 16,991 primary schools.

This increase in the number of cases of teachers implicated in schoolgirl pregnancies, A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT writes, call for stern measures against immoral teachers, including sacking and prosecution, in order to help revive morals in teaching profession. She asserts, however, that it was high time education stakeholders, including the government, worked on measures to revive and sustain teachers’ high moral standing. Read on…

Schoolgirl pregnancies is one of most critical and rapidly growing social challenges painting gloomy picture to the realization of the girl child right to education in the country, yet culprits include teachers mandated to exercise parental roles by conducting themselves to the best interests of students.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 states that; “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.”

Arguably, the controversial and serious moral decay among teachers, hardly noticed during Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership, is a reflection of fast dying national ethos due to uncontrolled grand and small corruption practices widely spread in political, social and economic spheres and have eroded moral integrity, not only of the public and private servants, but of a huge percent of national citizenry.

An analysis which Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) conducted on culprits of school pregnancies reported in news stories published by local newspapers between December 2010 and the end of March this year revealed the bitter reality that some male teachers including heads of primary and secondary schools were the culprits of pregnancies which stop girl children from pursuing education to higher levels. The analysis noted that during the period under review 11 cases of school pregnancy involved teachers.

Moreover, the cases could be just the tip of the iceberg since only few school pregnancy cases might sneak to the print media due to prevailing culture of secrecy and stigma surrounding school pregnancy issue in society and the fact that media especially the print media, hardly move out of urban centres to gather news in rural areas.

Apparently, reports of increasing number of cases of teachers implicated in schoolgirl pregnancies, has provoked heated public debate; citizens are wondering and questioning what has gone wrong to teachers who were among the most respected professionals as a result of their unquestionable moral standing.

Actually, of late it has become common to hear, read or view news where teachers have been shamefully accused of impregnating students. The trend suggests that dreams of thousands of girls of this country to become future politicians, medical practitioners, engineers, pilots, teachers, agriculturalists and many more of the like have been made impossible and the phenomenon is likely to intensify its magnitude unless the deep-rooted causes of the problems are dealt with immediately and sustainably.

According the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, during the period of five-years, between 2004 and 2008, a total of 28,590 schoolgirls in the country dropped out of school as a result of unwanted pregnancy, 11,599 being secondary school students and 16,991 primary schools.

Obviously, practices of teachers indulging in sex with students have far reaching negative impact, not only in risking underage unwanted pregnancies which have a share in maternal deaths, but also subjecting students into eminent danger of contracting a new controversial and dangerous virus which the world has being struggling in vain to find effective drug to combat over the last three decades.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome-AIDS, a disease which has claimed the lives of more than 30 million people worldwide. The disease has not speared Tanzania as it has terminated lives of over 1.5 million mostly young most needed human resource since the disease was diagnosed in the country in 1983.

The Chairman of Tanzania Commission of AIDS (TACAIDS) Dr Fatma Mrisho says a survey carried in the country in 2010 estimates that 130,000 new HIV infections occur in the country annually of which 80 percent were through sex between sexually active women and men.

According to Dr Mrisho another survey conducted two year earlier indicated that 5.7 percent of the country population estimated to be about 40 million people has contracted HIV.

But, what troubles the hard working health activist is the fact that the virus prevalence is high among underprivileged population majority being impoverished women and girls as the study revealed that 6.6 per cent of female population was affected compared to 4.6 per cent of male.

Notably, contribution of school pregnancy to maternal deaths also cannot be underestimated. Experts have proved that teenage pregnancy has unquestionable negative impact to maternal mortality and morbidly which Tanzania is listed among the African countries South of Sahara Africa with high rates.

The country’s Demographic Health Survey of 2010 shows that 454/100,000 equivalent to about 8,000 women and girls die annually due to preventable causes of maternal deaths including controlled school pregnancies.

To reverse the situation, activists have proposed various measured including putting in place policies and guidelines well known to the entire schools’ community to prevent students from vulnerability and taking stern measures against teachers involved in making students pregnant.

“Protection of students while in school is crucial in curbing school pregnancy”, noted Ussu Mallya, Executive Director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), an advocacy organization striving to transform society to realize that women’s rights are human rights and that, women’s rights cannot be realized unless girls rights including the right to education are observed.

“Action need to be taken now to reverse the situation otherwise the future of our girls is in jeopardy”, lamented another activist Gemma Akilimali, a retired teacher engaged in empowering girls to be proud of their youth hood while keeping away from bad elements who can spoil their education dreams.

Activists at different levels support the idea of sacking bad teachers as one of several measures that can make teachers play their role in pregnancy prevention. “It is not proper for teachers to indulge in sex with students because in such situation teachers cannot teach and students cannot study”. Observed Leserian Padara (35) a Maasai man working with TAMWA which has decided to address school pregnancy as a strategic issue of advocacy from 2009 to 2014 to ensure that difference is made and results are measured.

“Taking stern measures against immoral teachers will help revive morals in reaching profession”, noted Bubelwa Kaiza, ForDia Executive Director, an organization championing governance, democracy and social justice in the country, adding that human being cannot change and observe morals unless there are mechanisms in place to strictly hold accountable those who misbehave

Kaiza suggestion was anchored with leaders from other prominent activists’ organizations namely Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) and Women Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) Kivulini Women Human Rights Organization and TGNP.

Teachers making students pregnant or even proved to have love affair with student “should be suspended forthwith pending court determination instead of maintaining the current trend of transferring them to another school”, advised Ann Marie Mavenjina, TAWLA Executive Director, an organization located at Sharif Shamba, Ilala district, Dar es Salaam supporting underprivileged women and girls to pursue their rights in courts and out of court.

Likewise, Scholastica Jullu, Ussu Mallya and Maimuna Kanyamala Executive Directors of WLAC, TGNP and Kivulini respectively agreed with the proposal of reprimanding bad teachers by sacking them outright or suspending them if suspected to have shown immorality.

“The move will act as a strong warning to those teacher lacking moral qualities for job”, stressed Jullu whose legal organization has established paralegals in several regions in the country to provide grassroots women and girls’ access legal support and advice to better their lives.

The soft spoken but strong and principled lawyer said stern measures against morally spoilt teachers were important because the public do not expect teachers to be culprits of school pregnancy. “Public should not tolerate teachers who fool around and students must be encouraged to name and shame bad teachers”, noted Jullu.

Interestingly, experience shows that should students be encouraged to expose teachers who misbehave the move can bear fruits. Akilimali cited one successful case whereby a teacher at Ruvu Secondary School who raped a student and luckily the girl stood firm against the barbaric act, a move which necessitated school to take punitive action of sacking the teacher.

Moreover, legal activists namely Harold Sungusia, the LHRC Director of Advocacy and Reforms and WLAC Chief Executive strongly advised that sacking teachers who impregnates students is not enough; they must be charged so that legal action takes its due course against the impunity.

Currently, sexual offenses in the country are charged under Sexual Offenses Special Provision (SOSPA) of 1998 which provides punishment of 30 years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of committing sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years.

Furthermore, Mallya proposed that the immoral teachers should also be forced to pay compensation to the students to facilitate costs of caring for the unplanned new born. “This can be effected by confiscating the teachers properties”, the staunch women and girls activists.

But sacking teachers although it might make a difference in reviving teachers morals, if really the nation wants to make a u-turn on school pregnancy problem, it is worthy working on measures that can revive and sustain teachers’ high moral standing.

However, curbing the fast growing cases of pregnancy which some teachers are culprits can be realized in the near future, provided key education stakeholders specifically the government decides to do a serious reflection to identify factors that undermine education excellence in the country and thereafter invest properly in well thought strategic interventions that can add value in bridging the gaps established.

It is possible that several solutions can be identified in the process including the need to strengthen moral subjects in teachers colleges for the purpose of inculcating moral probity in student teachers. “Prevention is always better than cure”, observed the Tanzania Women Teachers Association (TAWOTEA) Executive Director Neema Kabale.

The writer is the Executive Director of TAMWA and can be reached through 0754 464368 or e-mail: [email protected]

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