Zimbabwe has made it illegal for schools to expel pupils who get pregnant, a measure women’s rights campaigners said would help tackle gender inequality in the classroom and stop many girls from dropping out of school. A legal amendment announced last week seeks to reinforce a 1999 guideline that was patchily implemented, and comes as school closures due to coronavirus raise fears of a rise in sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies. 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. In 2018, 12.5 percent of the country’s roughly 57,500 school dropouts stopped attending classes due to pregnancy or marriage reasons – almost all of them girls, according to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education statistics. Pregnancy is just one of the reasons that girls in Zimbabwe could fail to return to classes after coronavirus restrictions are lifted, said Sibusisiwe Ndlovu, communications specialist at Plan International Zimbabwe. Poverty and early marriage will also stop some from resuming their studies, she said, welcoming the new legislation as a step in the right direction.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
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