At a time when they are supposed to be at school, learning with other classmates, some girls are chased from school due to pregnancy. Not out of their free will but because they have been raped, worse still by someone who is drunk.
Sadly, excessive alcohol incites violence in some men, who pounce on school going children and sexually abuse them, destroying their future.
Such was the case of 15 year old Beatrice Shirima (not her real name) of Magomeni Mwembechai whose innocence was taken away by her neighbour who was drunk.
When the incident happened, early this year, Beatrice was in Form II at a school in Morogoro.
“During the Easter holiday, I returned home to be with my family. On the day I was raped, my mother had sent me to the market,” said the 15 year old girl who was allegedly raped by someone she called Juma.
“I met my neighbour on my way back home from the market. He told me he had a new movie which he wanted to lend me. He looked drunk but I went with him because I trusted him since we stay in the same neighborhood and exchange movies,” she said.
Beatrice says to her surprise when she arrived at Juma’s place, no one was around.
“He dragged me to his bedroom and took advantage of me; I was raped by someone I trusted,” she says with tears in her eyes.
Beatrice narrated that her parents quickly took her to a police station where she got a PF3 form, and then received medical treatment at Mwananyamala hospital.
Adding that the medical examination confirmed she had been raped and the suspect was eventually arrested.
“I went back to school when the holiday was over and after a month I started feeling sick. My teachers suggested that I go for a checkup; I was shocked when the results showed that I was pregnant. My parents were immediately told to come and pick me up from school,” said Beatrice.
She started having some health complications, “last month I delivered a premature baby who survived for a few days and then passed away,” she said.
This is the dilemma a young girl had to go through because of someone who abused alcohol and became violent.
Elizabeth Muhangwa is the Legal Officer and Coordinator at Tanzania’s Crisis Resolving Centre (CRC). She says the organization receives cases of teen pregnancy seeking legal remedy.
“When I am handling cases involving school pregnancies, most of the young mothers are psychologically affected because they are forced to start an adult life at an early age; others are as young as 14 years old and are already taking care of their own children, despite them too being children,” she said.
Muhangwa said “others feel rejected because most men refuse to take responsibility of the pregnancy or children born from these young girls.”
“At Crisis Resolving Centre, we receive cases of rape involving school going children and some say the perpetrator was drunk. The parents testify that the girls are so traumatized and their grades at school are affected drastically,” said Ms Muhangwa.
Indeed alcohol related abuse destroys the future of school going children, who are the leaders of tomorrow’s generation.
According to medics at Mwananyamala hospital, the hospital has been receiving many rape cases which involve people who have abused alcohol or drugs.
“Most of the rape cases we receive are at night and the bad thing is that young girls are raped by people whom they trust and know very well,” said Dr Spitla Makeyi who is a VCT/PMTCT expert at Mwananyamala hospital, Kinondoni District in Dar es Salaam.
Such cases can reduce if people stopped excessive drinking of alcohol and respected the rights of the girl child.
Recently, the Minister for Education and Vocational training Dr Shukuru Kawambwa said over 5000 secondary school girls in the country are chased from school every year due to pregnancy and these girls are not allowed back to school after delivery.
Unfortunately some of these girls end up pregnant after being raped. Therefore parents should ensure that perpetrators of such acts face justice and avoid solving the cases at home.
The country’s education policy should also be reviewed in good time to allow girls go back to school and be empowered through good education and in turn be responsible citizens who contribute to national development.
Prisca Wallace is a Gender and Development Student at the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy. She agrees that alcohol abuse plays a role in school pregnancies.
“Some school girls go to night clubs and after getting drunk are raped by unknown people while others end up having unsafe sex resulting into pregnancy,” she says.
Her advice is “school going children should concentrate on their studies and not take alcohol because it contributes to pregnancy. Once pregnant, a girl is forced to get married at an early age and stop school; this ruins her chances of having good employment, improve her livelihood and that of society at large.”
A Bunju resident and 2nd year student at Mzumbe University, Isihaka Ibrahim says some parents make a living through selling local alcohol in local pubs and the daughters have to accompany their mothers in doing business, after school.
“In such areas, parents cannot do anything about it if the daughter is sexually harassed or raped as this will ruin the business. Instead, they resort to settling issues at home,” says Ibrahim.
“Parents who spend more time in pubs, drinking alcohol do not have the time to talk to their daughters on issues regarding safe sex, this makes the girls vulnerable and be bought with small gifts, resulting in school pregnancy,” he says.
Ibrahim concludes by saying the majority of young girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy come from poor families and find it difficult to take care of the baby when born, this further stresses the young mother who is still a child.
It is imperative that parents educate the girl child on dangers of teenage pregnancy and how alcohol abuse plays a role in damaging their future. This will go a step further in reducing school pregnancies.
Likewise, men who abuse alcohol and sexually abuse young girls should stop. This is ruining the lives of potential leaders of tomorrow, making them illiterate and struggle to find means of looking after children at an early age.
In these 16 days of activism against gender based violence, it is hoped that different stakeholders in the country will come up with tangible solutions to assist women who are mostly victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and protect the girl child whose future is coming to a standstill due to unwanted pregnancies.
Note: Shipeka Chibanda is a Journalist from Zambia Media Women Association currently attached to TAMWA