Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has said it will soon start providing money to enable pregnant girls to continue with their education after Treasury allocated $123 million for the programme in the 2021 national budget.
Part of the funds will also be used for counselling services, conducting needs assessment surveys and crafting empowerment programmes to reduce the prevalence of girls falling pregnant before completing their studies.
The development is in line with the amended Education Act which now allows girls to attend school during and after the pregnancy.
The budget allocation follows the approval in August by President Mnangagwa of the amended Education Act. Prior to the amendment of the law, school authorities expelled pregnant girls but boys that impregnated the girls were spared, which was seen as discriminatory.
An increasing number of girls fell pregnant during the Covid-19 induced long school break and Government is taking measures to ensure the affected girls are not deprived of their education.
A number of the pregnant girls did not report for school for the Third Term which ended on Friday and efforts to track them down are underway. Two of the pregnant Bulawayo schoolgirls committed suicide after probably failing to cope with the new reality.
In an interview, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s director of communications and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said the ministry now has an allocation from the national budget to assist pregnant girls cope with their new situation.
“We are now able to conduct research to establish the prevalence of girls falling pregnant, conduct needs assessment surveys and also track down the affected girls so that they are not deprived of their education,” said Mr Ndoro.
He said the ministry will soon engage communities to find out how best to address the problem of girls falling pregnant while at school.
Mr Ndoro said the Ministry will work with the Department of Social Welfare to ensure teenage mothers’ babies are well looked after.
“We will also offer them counselling and come up with empowerment programmes for less privileged girls so that they are not abused by men or boys with money taking advantage of their social status,” said Mr Ndoro.
In her contribution during the 2021 budget debate in Parliament recently the chairperson of the Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the money to assist pregnant girls will go a long way in ensuring the affected girls continue with their education.
She said the increasing number of girls falling pregnant while at school was a cause for concern and needs to be addressed urgently.
She said Government working with school authorities should ensure affected girls were afforded the opportunity to continue with their education. Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said figures released so far could just be a fraction of the girls that fell pregnant during the long [email protected]