The government has set aside $123 million for the provision of psycho-social support for pupils who fall pregnant so that they are not excluded from school.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, made the announcement while presenting the National Budget last Thursday.
“Government allows non-exclusion of pregnant girls in schools and to ensure observance of this provision, psycho–social support will be enhanced at schools and an allocation of ZWL$123 million has been set aside,”
The budget allocation follows the approval in August by President Mnangagwa of the amendment of the Education Act.
Prior to the amendments of the Act, school authorities could expel a girl for falling pregnant but spare the boy responsible for the pregnancy, which was seen as discriminatory against the girl child as the responsible boy child was allowed to remain in school.
Under the amendments, “No pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of school fees or on the basis of pregnancy.”
The Act also outlaws corporal punishment and school authorities are now required to draw up a disciplinary policy in accordance with standards set out in regulations prescribed by the minister.
In terms of the Act, the regulations and any disciplinary policy shall not permit any treatment which does not respect the human dignity of a pupil.
A significant number of girls fall pregnant in school in Zimbabwe. In 2018, 12.5% of 57,500 school dropouts were due to pregnancy or marriage reasons.
Many parents of pregnant girls, or the girls themselves, decide to quit schooling due to the pregnancy, and schools do not always do enough to encourage them to stay, officials say.
It is hoped these new initiatives will address these gaps that further widen gender disparities in education.