During his visit to the region last October, President John Magufuli expressed his shock at the pupil pregnancy and consequent dropout rates, directing authorities there to swing into action and reverse the trend.
The strategy was prepared by liaison effort between the regional authorities and Plan International via its Safe Motherhood Project, officials said.
The strategy was unveiled at the weekend at Namanyere in Nkasi District, in a ceremony attended by various officials including district commissioners, executive directors, district council chairmen, legislators from the region and education stakeholders.
Speaking at the event, Regional Medical Officer Dr Boniface Kasululu said secondary schools were leading in school pregnancies as there were 551 in the two year period, or 76 percent increase in cases of pregnancy, while primary schools had 171 instances of pregnancy.
“Demographic data for 2015 and 2016 shows that a significant portion of girls aged 15 to 19 in the region become pregnant or already had babies despite that at this age the girls need to be at school,” Dr Kasululu said.
The cause for this situation includes poor accountability by parents and guardians, local leaders and society in general on issues of guardianship of young girls who are especially vulnerable.
He mentioned other reasons as little knowledge among the society on laws concerning child care, gender based violence (GBV), adolescence pressures as well as insufficient space in boarding schools.
Speaking on the issue, Rukwa Regional Commissioner Joachim Wangabo thanked Plan International for their role in the preparation of the plan which he said will help to significantly reduce school pregnancies by 2025.
The strategy aims to defend the rights and interests of children including the right to education and other basic rights without discrimination, he said.
The main cause of school pregnancies is that student walk long distances to schools especially in villages and wards that have no schools, he stated.
The region has 339 villages, with 59 having primary schools, compelling pupils to walk five kms to school in nearby villages, hence making them prey to wayward young men along that route.
“But we also have 97 wards, where 25 wards have no secondary schools, an environment that is hazardous for our children,” he said, noting that it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure that all villages have primary schools and all wards have secondary schools.
He urged officials in wards lacking secondary schools to embark on work to building dormitories for girl students to reduce the risks tied with walking to school.
Aida Khenan (Special Seats, Chadema) urged that girls becoming pregnant at school should not to lose hope, pointing out that many senior public officials were once victims of such a situation, including herself when she was in Form III.
Rukwa residents need to work with the government and other stakeholders to tackle child pregnancies as such incidents are hazardous to the life of the student especially during delivery, she added.