The Ministry of Education, Sport, Art and Culture has made a U-turn on schoolgirls that fall pregnant, saying the girls, together with those responsible, would be expelled from school.
Secretary for Education, Sport, Art and Culture Stephen Mahere issued a statement yesterday to that effect.
Mahere said according to Circular No. 35 October 8, 1999, pregnancy of a learner, and being responsible for it, were examples of misdemeanour of a serious nature.
He said schoolboys guilty of making their female counterparts pregnant would only be considered for readmission at another school after one year, as a sanction for misconduct.
The move by Mahere follows reports attributed to Harare provincial education director Calvin Mazula claiming that schoolgirls who fell pregnant were now entitled to three months’ maternity leave.
Those responsible for the pregnancy would also be entitled to three months’ paternity leave, Mazula added.
However, Mahere said in a statement: “Learners in all schools may be suspended, excluded or expelled from school for various acts of misconduct of a serious nature.
“Pregnancy of a learner and being responsible for it are such an example of misdemeanour of a serious nature. The law provides for exclusion of a learner who falls pregnant and expulsion of a learner responsible for it.
“From the afore-cited position, there cannot be maternity or paternity leave for learners in schools. In this regard, it can only be exclusion or expulsion from school for pregnancy of a learner.
“The excluded girl may, on consultation between the school and her parents/guardians, be readmitted into school earlier than three months for purposes of writing examinations and in any case, may be readmitted in the same grade/form in which she was at least three months after confinement.”
Mahere said it should be noted that the interest of the girl and the child to be born were considered paramount.
Contrary to reports that schoolboys would also be granted paternity leave, Mahere said readmission was not guaranteed.
“It should be noted that readmission of the boy is not automatic, as approval by the ministry must be sought and granted before readmission in any formal school,” he said.
There has been raging debate on the issue of schoolgirls who fall pregnant and those responsible for the pregnancy.
“It all depends on who has impregnated the girl. If it’s a teacher, we take disciplinary action against him, but if it’s a fellow pupil, he also goes on paternity leave,” Mazula was quoted as having said.
Mazula was reported to have said male students should not get the “unfair advantage” of continuing with their studies while the mothers of their children were sitting at home.
“The boy should also feel the pain of temporarily halting school and this should be a
deterrent to would-be offenders,” he reportedly said.