A NEW report has shown that the reintegration of pregnant and married adolescent girls into formal education continues to be low despite the existence of policies supporting the idea.
The report, Re-integration of pregnant and adolescent girls into formal education system: Learnings from the operationalisation of the readmission policy, was done by CARE International in partnership with Canada.
The report said the reintegration of pregnant and teenage mothers was being stalled by challenges such as stigmatisation, which has seen pregnant and teenage mothers facing discrimination from their peers.
It said the shortage of resources meant that they do not have the money to pay the fees since pregnancy and childbearing brings an extra financial burden.
It said pregnant girls were being labelled prostitutes or of weak morals, which has hamstrung their reintegration into the formal education system.
It also listed the lack of community support as a reason as parents or guardians shun financing education for pregnant and teen mothers.
The apostolic sect was also flagged as it upholds the belief and practice of marrying underage girls and hiding cases of child marriages.
The report is an indictment of the government which has failed to ensure the re-integration is smooth despite the existence of legislation to support the initiative.
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The Education Amendment Act of 2020 prohibits the expulsion of pregnant girls from school. It entitles every child to compulsory basic state funded education.
It says any parent who deprives their child the right to basic State-funded education “shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 6 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years”.
What is required is to implement the law to ensure the reintegration process is done smoothly.
The government knows where some of the apostolic sects that infringe on the law operate from. It is also aware that a certain sect is notorious for practising child marriages.
In 2021, 14-year-old Anna Machaya died in Marange while giving birth. The “husband” was later arrested on murder charges after an outcry by Zimbabweans. He was later released on bail.
The re-integration of pregnant and adolescent girls into the formal education system: Learnings from the operationalisation of the readmission policy report recommended the strengthening of local level school and community structures to support and safeguard learners willing to re-enrol into the formal learning system.
It said enhancing education financing mechanisms for pregnant and teen mothers was essential and supporting the creation of gender responsive learning environments that prohibit labelling and judgmental attitudes in societies, and stigmatisation in schools should be a priority.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is preaching that his policies are leaving no one and no place behind.
We believe the pregnant and teenage mothers are being left behind. It is high time the government puts shoulder to the wheel and intensifies the reintegration of pregnant and teenage mothers into the formal education system. The law is there. What is missing is the implementation which will give pregnant and teenage mothers another chance.