CRISIS Coalition in Zimbabwe (CiZC) has expressed concern over increasing cases of pregnancies among schoolgirls as statistics indicate that 20 000 schoolgirls fell pregnant between September last year and August this year.
The Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT) claimed in its latest report that Zimbabwe has witnessed a surge in cases of child pregnancies with statistics between September 2021 and August 2022 indicating that over 20 000 pupils at primary and secondary schools dropped out of school after falling pregnant.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro was quick to shoot down the report. He said:
“Surely, the author of such a preposterous report must be battling with acute testosterone issues. Common sense should prevail when wispy imaginations claim that 55 pupils in our schools were impregnated every single day from September 2021 to August 2022.”
But CiZC said: “We reiterate the need for a robust and collective approach, which requires unity of purpose among different stakeholders in creating safe spaces and equal opportunities for women and girls.”
Child rights expert and human rights lawyer Opal Sibanda said:
“This is quite worrying as teenage pregnancy has negative impacts on the rights of children. It is important for the government to note the provisions of article 11 of African Children’s Charter and Zimbabwe’s Education Amendment Act which provide for the retention of pregnant girls in schools — and ensure that effective measures are put in place to ensure that the children are assisted to continue with their education.”
Sibanda said the issue of access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) services could not be ignored, adding that measures should be put in place to ensure that teenage boys and girls have access to comprehensive, scientifically accurate, age-appropriate SRH information and services.
Child rights lawyer and one of the founders of Justice for Children Trust Caleb Mutandwa said there was need for multiple strategies which complement each other to prevent child pregnancies by educating children on the dangers of sexual relations.
“We need to address factors which hinder girls’ education, including poverty. Children must not be forced by their circumstances to see marriage as an option or escape route,” said Mutandwa.
“We must also focus on the prosecution of the offenders and those found guilty must be given the deterrent sentences. Currently the law allows a sentence of up to life imprisonment for rape but the courts are yet to impose this upper limit on any offender. The Judiciary should, therefore, send a message that sexual abuse of children is not tolerated”.
He said there was a need to implement the recently amended Education Act.