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Murape Primary School, Zimbabwe 2016.
GPE/ Carine Durand
Education

Zimbabwe Officially Allows Pregnant Girls to Stay in School


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Pregnant women and mothers deserve equal access to education. Education reduces teen pregnancies and provides opportunities for adolescent parents to support their families. You can join us and take action on this issue here

Zimbabwe is the latest country to ensure pregnant students don’t miss out on their education.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed legislation under amendments to the Education Act on Sunday that officially prohibits state schools from banning pregnant students from attending school.

The amendments also bar teachers from disciplining students by caning and allows students to continue attending school even if they owe fees. In 2019, 60% of children in primary schools were suspended because they owed school fees. 

“No pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of school fees or on the basis of pregnancy,” the text of the amendments reads, according to the Herald.

Moving forward, students can’t be suspended from school without having representation from their parents about the suspension, according to the amendments. 

“Disciplinary measures must be moderate, reasonable, and proportionate in the light of the conduct, age, sex, health, and circumstances of the pupil concerned and the best interests of the child shall be paramount,” the text says. 

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) is pleased with the amendments.

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“The president has just signed the law and we will fully enforce the provisions for the furtherance of education in the country,” MoPSE Minister Cain Mathema said on Sunday, according to the Herald. “We believe the act is a progressive legislation.”

Human rights advocates warn pregnancy bans in schools to promote shame and disempower girls. Before Mnangagwa signed the amendments, girls could be expelled for being pregnant, but the boys involved in the pregnancies didn’t face any repercussions.

Zimbabwe had the highest teenage fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, putting thousands of girls at risk of falling behind, according to the United Nations. Girls who experience early or unplanned pregnancy are more likely to encounter societal and financial hurdles to stay in school. 

Sierra Leone and Tanzania also outlawed pregnant student bans in schools in recent years.