Dar es Salaam — Women’s group joined forces against Tanzania’s ban on pregnant pupils in state schools, saying education was a girl’s best shot at success. In a joint statement, 29 nonprofit groups said that any move to deny girls the opportunity to go back to school after giving birth would only punish them, their children – and the nation. “Our motivation is the girls themselves, their quality of life and the opportunities they have to progress. Women and girls make up 51 percent of the population so the question of what happens to them and their children is one that affects all of us,” the group said. Educating young girls brings economic and social benefits to the whole country.” Last week, President John Magufuli said that schoolgirls who got pregnant would never be re-admitted to school after giving birth, and appeared to mock the young mothers for multitasking. “After calculating some few mathematics, she’d be asking the teacher in the classroom ‘let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby,'” he said. His home affairs minister has also warned activists to stop campaigning for the pregnant girls or risk deregistration. Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the world. According to a 2015/16 survey conducted by the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics, 21 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth. Advocates say schoolgirls already face multiple challenges to get an education, be it overcoming the crush of poverty, gender-based violence or long travel distances to school. And many of the girls who become pregnant do so after rape, sexual violence or coercion, said Christa Stewart, programme manager at the global girls’ charity Equality Now. “When education is universally recognized as the linchpin to success, allowing this violence to continue, and punishing girls who have become pregnant as a result, is a policy doomed to failure.” She told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

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