World Bank suspends $500m loan for Tanzania as the gov’t bans pregnant girls from public schools

Francis Akhalbey Jan 29, 2020 at 08:30am

January 29, 2020 at 08:30 am | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

January 29, 2020 at 08:30 am | News

The World Bank has succumbed to pressure from activists and withheld a $500 million loan to Tanzania over protests of the government’s ban of pregnant girls and young mothers from public schools.

According to CNN, the bank’s executive board was set to meet Tuesday to deliberate on the loan. However, the meeting was postponed a day before following a request of a member.

The delay reportedly came about after an emergency meeting was held between the bank, Tanzanian activists and international human rights organizations on Monday.

CNN also reports that Tanzanian civil society groups sent a letter to the bank’s executive board last week calling on them to withhold the disbursement of the funds until the country introduces laws that allow pregnant students to remain in public schools. They also requested for the barring of mandatory pregnancy tests.

This is not the first time Tanzania has had issues securing funds from the World Bank as a result of its stiff laws against pregnant schoolgirls.

The country lost out on a $300 million educational loan over the aforementioned policy in 2018. The funding was to help the East African country in improving the status of education in secondary schools. The loan was reportedly withdrawn over concerns of discontinuation of education once a girl gets pregnant in the country.

In June 2017, President John Magufuli upheld a controversial 2002 law that bans pregnant schoolgirls from returning to school after giving birth. He also added that men who impregnate schoolgirls should be imprisoned for 30 years.

Following the 2018 standoff, the World Bank said it will continue to advocate for education of girls in its dialogue with the East African nation.

“The economic and social returns to girls finishing their education are very high in every society for both current and future generations. Working with other partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate for girls’ access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government,” the World Bank said in an official statement emailed to CNN.

A World Bank spokesman for Tanzania also told the news outlet they have been liaising with the country since 2018 to reach an amicable consensus, adding that the reworked loan was to “enhance the quality and provision of education.”

“The program has been redesigned … to ensure girls and boys who drop out, including pregnant girls, have alternate education options for themselves.”

Around 5,500 adolescent girls couldn’t complete their secondary education as a result of pregnancy and young motherhood.

The government of Sierra Leone, which upholds a similar policy was recently ordered by an Ecowas court to lift its policy banning pregnant girls from attending school.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) court, in the milestone ruling described the policy as discriminatory, ordering the government to immediately revoke the policy.

Since April 2015, pregnant students in Sierra Leone were not allowed to sit in the same class as their peers because the government sees them as a bad influence.

The government of Sierra Leone has instead put in place alternative schools for these young mothers, where they are taught a reduced version of the mainstream curriculum.

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