Source: Daily News

SEVENTEEN schoolgirls out of 48 in six secondary schools in Dodoma's Bahi District have absconded classes due to early pregnancies, suspected to be acquired during the coronavirus pandemic and flooding season.

This is an equivalent of at least eight girls from each secondary school who did not return to school, while three girls from every school dropped classes due to early pregnancy.

Speaking during a capacity building training organized by Woman Fund Tanzania (WFT) on gender-based violence during the Covid-19, teachers from Chipanga, Kigwe, Bahi, Mpamatwa and Ibihwa schools confirmed that schoolgirls had dropped and other opted not to go back to classes after the pandemic and the flooding season.

At Kigwe secondary school, for instance, six girls tested positive to pregnancy and ten more students that include six girls opting out of school during the coronavirus pandemic. Reports from Chipanga detailed that four girls got pregnant, while three more others tested positive to a pregnancy test in Mpamantwa secondary school. Three boys never reported back to school at Chipanga and 13 more students, including six girls at Mpamantwa dropped out of school.

Authorities at Bahi secondary school noted that two girls got pregnant and 42 students that include 23 girls failed to report back after the coronavirus crisis.

Programme Coordinator, Luhaga Makunja expressed dismay as to why such a large number of schoolgirls had not returned to classes even after the coronavirus and the flooding crisis in the district. He went on to note that some girls have so far been reported to be forced into marriage although they are registered as secondary school students.

"Protection of women and girls against any form of violence is a responsibility of all of us as a nation and not social workers alone. There is no basis to harm, hurt or exploit women or children at any time or place," he stressed.

Mr Makunja urged the general public not to be silent and reveal perpetrators of gender based violence in the communities. He named such unspeakable acts to include forced marriage, wife-beating, rape, sexual abuse, early child pregnancies, insults, threats, forced child labour, sexual exploitation and corruption.

He said such cases must be reported to the police special gender desks or social workers and local government authorities, saying that members of the public can also report to child protection security committees, civil society groups and call a toll-free helpline 116.

Nicholas Kosey from Bangonet, also urged the public to protect schoolgirls to reach their targets, urging both the state and non-state actors to work together in support of the community to help enhance women and child protection in the country.

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