Burundi has joined the shameful list of African countries that have banned teen girls from attending school because of pregnancy.
The country’s ministry of education issued the directive last week saying pregnant girls, young mums and the boys who made them pregnant can no longer be part of the formal education system.
The June 26 letter signed by Minister of Education Janvière Ndirahisha further directed that the affected teenagers be only allowed to join vocational or professional training courses.
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This directive is being implemented in Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea where it is expected to serves as a deterrent to other teen girls. However, the boys responsible for the pregnancy are always at an advantage.
“This ban disproportionately affects girls and it is skewed towards an abuse of the girls’ rights to education,” Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, a lawyer from the campaign group Equality Now told the VOA.
“How does the government intend on proving that Boy A impregnated Girl B? How about cases where the perpetrators are teachers, adults in the community, will the government go after them too?” she added.
In January, Tanzania shocked the world when it ordered the arrest of pregnant schoolgirls and their parents “to end the growing teenage pregnancies in the country, prevent other girls from engaging in sexual activities and get the girls to testify against the culprits who are on the run.”
This was effected after the president John Magufuli upheld a controversial 2002 law that banned pregnant schoolgirls from returning to school after giving birth. He also added that men who impregnate schoolgirls should be imprisoned for 30 years. He was equally criticized by rights bodies.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, a new initiative was launched in May to save pregnant teenage girls from dropping out of school. The project, named A-STREAM – Advancing Secondary, Tertiary, Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers – pairs 40 adolescent mothers with mentors who will help them gain life skills while completing their education.
Each mother will receive $316 for school costs, and tuition will be paid from a scholarship fund equaling $3,163, which will be awarded to mothers who have graduated to the tertiary level.
Many girls in Africa, who in most cases were raped, are shamed for becoming pregnant every year. This is the situation of tens of thousands of girls in the continent, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).