Zambia: Re-entry policy for pregnant school girls triggers debate in Zambia (News analysis by Mildred Mulenga, PANA Correspondent)

Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) – The re-entry policy introduced by the Zambian government to allow pregnant school girls complete their education is becoming a controversial issue here as statistics of girls getting pregnant after re-entry into school is rising.

Recent revelation that about 70 percent of pupils that are re-admitted after falling pregnant at Mwajimambwe Primary School in Chief Mumena’s area in Solwezi, north-western Zambia, fall pregnant again, has sparked debate on the re-entry policy.

Head Teacher of the school, Titus Kikolomo, said some school girls are reported to be abusing the re-entry policy that government has put in place to help them complete their education despite falling pregnant.

Kikolomo charged that the re-entry policy was somehow breeding indiscipline in some of the school girls, and suggested that there is the need for government to attach a limit to the number of times one can be re admitted back into school.

Kikolomo told a parliamentary committee on legal, human rights and governance and child affairs that visited Chief Mumena recently that the policy will only work effectively if there are limits, according to the local media.

He, however, said the re-entry policy is a good policy as it accords girls to complete their education despite the circumstances they find themselves in.

And statistics revealed in parliament show that 12,617 girls were re-admitted in school under the school re-entry policy after falling pregnant between 2009 and 2011.

According to Education Minister John Phiri, the problem is more prevalent in basic schools, saying that in 2009, 5,517 basic school going pupils were readmitted in school, while 1,033 secondary school pupils were readmitted during the same year.

In 2010, 5,035 basic school pupils were readmitted into school, with 1,033 secondary school pupils being readmitted in the same year.

In 2011, 5,106 basic school pupils were readmitted in school, with 925 secondary school pupils being readmitted in school.

Phiri said it is time to do a more meaningful research into the re-entry policy which came into force in 1997 to establish whether it is working and if it not to identify the impediments.

And District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) Richard Kasoma, said North-Western Province district has been recording not less than 100 pregnancies among the school girls annually since 2008.

And according to Solwezi District Education Board Secretary, Fredrick Munkinyi, 42 percent of girls in the district drop out of school due to pregnancies.

He said 42 percent of school girls in between grades five and nine drop out of school before they complete basic school, while 21 percent leave school for early marriages, and attributing this to cultural practices, negative attitude towards education and poor sanitation in most schools.

He said there was the need to ensure that children are enrolled at the right age in urban and rural schools and sensitize parents on enrolling their children at the right age.

Kasoma attributed the increase in the number of school girls getting pregnant to the lack of adequate boarding houses for the pupils in the district, saying this is a major cause of the problem.

He expressed concern that the pupils are forced to rent some houses because of inadequate boarding schools. He said by living in rented houses for them to easily access education, the girls become vulnerable and their personal security is usually not guaranteed in such places.

The issues of peer-pressure and lack of parental control at these houses also contribute to the rise in pregnancies, he added.

“This re-entry policy is not working. And I am in support of the Catholic and other mission schools on this matter. Taking them back to conventional schools influences other school girls,” Chanda Moonga, a student teacher told PANA.
-0- PANA MM/VAO 6April2014

06 april 2014 08:36:20




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