Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
THE Loreto High School pupil who gave birth at the school hostel and underwent post-natal care, is set to return to class.
The Form Three pupil gave birth to a bouncing baby last week at the school’s box room.
She was assisted by health focal teachers before being taken to Silobela Hospital for further assistance.
The parents were later informed of the incident and they took her home in Gweru where she is reportedly in good health.
Efforts to contact the family were fruitless as they refused to talk to the media saying they prefer to handle the issue privately.
According to the school authorities, the 15-year-old transferred to Loreto High at the beginning of Third Term last year and chances are high that she was already pregnant when she enrolled at the Roman Catholic-run boarding school.
Information gathered by the Chronicle indicate that the girl is set to return to class in a month’s time.
Government policy is that girls who give birth are allowed to return to school and continue with their educatiion.
School head Mr Phillip Mapiravana said the pupil was free to return to school and continue with her education as is Government policy.
“The girl is welcome to return to school whenever she feels that she is ready. We are guided by the Education Amendment Act of 2020 which makes it a fundamental right to access education even after giving birth,” said Mr Mapiravana.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Mr Taungana Ndoro said they have since dispatched a team to the school to provide socio-psycho support.
“We have dispatched our learner welfare department to provide socio-psycho support to the pupil as well as other pupils at the school. Our Education Amendment Act makes it mandatory for every learner to access education,” he said.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chairperson Mr Torerai Moyo said any learner who falls pregnant is not supposed to be expelled from school.
“The learner goes on leave for maybe two to three weeks upon giving birth and then resumes classes. Her fundamental right to education is guaranteed. She must feel comfortable in class because her rights are enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Moyo who is also MP for Gokwe-Chireya, said the socio-psycho support that the children are receiving should guard against stigmatisation.
“The girl should not be stigmatised when she returns to class. The Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education however urges pupils to abstain from sex which results in early pregnancies,” he said.
Pediatrician, Dr Crispen Ngwenya said child birth is a process, which involves a lot of psychological support and advance preparedness.
Dr Ngwenya who is also Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) Midlands Chapter president, said the pupil might require a lot of assistance and more time to recuperate before she goes back to school.
“We might need to give her enough time for her to come to terms with the situation and to find herself again. She needs to rest for a long period because this is a complicated issue,” he said.
While normal maternity leave is about 90 days, Dr Ngwenya said the pupil might require a year or so before she resumes lessons.
Lobby groups added their voices saying a conducive environment should be created for the pupil to return to class.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe Kwekwe Chapter chairperson, Ms Roswitter Matsveru raised concern about the pupil returning to the same school.
“I think it’s good that the parents have considered readmitting the child back in school although I feel that they should try and find another school for her because she will not cope,” she said.
One of the immediate challenges, she said, is the ostracism fuelled by the gossip within the family, colleagues, community and school authorities.
Her Gweru counterpart, Ms Nozipho Rutsate said learning from home would be ideal.
“I recommend that the school support her while learning from home for at least a month and thereafter return to class,” she said.
Chief Weight Gwesela weighed in, saying sex education should be taken seriously within the community.
“We should be educating our society about the dangers of sexually abusing children. We should impose harsh sentences and for me, I take these matters seriously and will continue to fight in the corner of the Girl Child,” he said.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has launched a “Catch up Strategy’ as a way of assisting children who drop out of school due to various reasons, including pregnancies to return to school.
In Kwekwe District alone, a total of 1 182 pupils who had dropped out of school returned to class courtesy of the ‘Catch-Up Strategy’.
A total of 633 girls who had either fallen pregnant or married returned to school.