Tanzania has agreed to ensure pregnant girls who are forced to leave school can still receive an education, Reuters reports.
The effort is in response to the World Bank’s withdrawal of a $300 million educational loan last week. The World Bank pulled the loan because it was concerned about the country’s discriminatory policies, but an official from the financial institution announced Sunday it will resume working with Tanzania to restructure an education project.
World Bank Vice President for Africa Hafez Ghanem said the bank reversed its initial decision after the local government agreed to educate pregnant students and mothers in a meeting Friday.
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“He has come to assure us that the World Bank will not leave us,” Tanzania’s President John Magufuli said of Ghanem’s visit in a statement, according to Yahoo.
The $300 million loan was initially set to be distributed in October to help Tanzania’s Ministry of Education make quality secondary education more accessible. Under the new agreement, in addition to supporting pregnant girls and mothers, the World Bank’s loan will help build new classrooms, labs, staff housing, and teaching facilities.
The World Bank’s board still has to approve the project before funds can be officially released.
While this sounds like a win for women and girls and Tanzania, there’s one caveat. Under Tanzania’s new policy, pregnant women and mothers still won’t be allowed to attend regular school. Leonard Akwilapo, Tanzania’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education, told Reuters they will have to continue their education in adult education classes, or elsewhere.
Under a law first introduced in the 1960s and reinforced by Magufuli in 2017, pregnant girls and teenage girls in Tanzania are currently banned from attending school. A few months later, in June 2017, Magulfi stopped allowing mothers who had given birth to return back to school. Magulfi argued allowing pregnant girls and young mothers to attend school will encourage other girls to have sex. But in September, Magulfi advised women to stop using birth control to boost the country’s population.
Tanzania’s human rights violations have recently been an international concern. In November, the World Bank also stopped staff from visiting Tanzania because of the country’s recent harassment and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. On Wednesday, Tanzania’s second-biggest donor Denmark pulled $10 million worth of aid money over the country’s human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The same week, the EU announced it’s reevaluating Tanzanian policies in light of human rights concerns.
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Thousands of young girls and women and Tanzania as a whole stands to benefit from the country’s agreement with the World Bank. The country has one of the highest rates of child marriage prevalence in the world, according to the organization Girls Not Brides, putting almost 2 out of 5 girls in Tanzania at risk of entering a child marriage and stopping their education.
Supporting girls’ education strengthens economies, stabilizes communities, and protects the planet.
“Girls’ education is central to development, we are a development institution, we cannot accept that some girls be denied education,” Ghanem, of the World Bank, said in a press briefing.