They failed mandatory pregnancy tests at school. Then they were expelled.
1 weeks ago, 21:08
It happens twice a year at Arusha Secondary School. Each one of the school’s 800 female students is accompanied into a toilet and told to pee in a jar. Outside the cubicle, a teacher waits to make sure the samples are not swapped.
The girls are taking compulsory pregnancy tests. And if they come back positive, the student is expelled immediately.
The tests have been happening at this school, for students from grades eight and up, for three years.
CNN visited two other schools in the Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions where similar testing took place; three more schools confirmed the tests in phone interviews.
Elifuraha, who CNN is referring to by her first name, finds it difficult to talk about the shame she felt when teachers at the Moshono Secondary School in Arusha, summoned her for a mandatory pregnancy test.
“All the students were called in a room and the female teachers started to inspect us… they were touching our stomachs,” the 19-year-old mother told CNN, as a tear rolled down her cheek.
She knew she was pregnant, but was trying hard to hide her growing stomach. After admitting her pregnancy, she was immediately expelled.
Tanzania uses a morality clause in a 2002 education law to give schools the legal framework needed to expel students — the practice originally dates back to the 1960s. The law has been more widely applied since President John Pombe Magufuli took office in 2015.
Last June, Magufuli, dubbed “The Bulldozer,” went a step further, announcing that pregnant students would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth.
“In my administration as the President no pregnant girl will go back to school… she has chosen that of kind life, let her take care of the child,” he said at a public rally in 2017. His speech removed any discretion schools had over how they enforced the morality rule.
There are no official statistics on how many pregnant girls have been expelled from Tanzanian schools. The US-based Center for Reproductive Rights, an international advocacy group, estimated in 2013 that over 8,000 pregnant girls were being expelled or dropped out from Tanzanian schools every year.
The Presidential decree last year goes directly against the previous government’s efforts to introduce a school re-entry policy for teenage mothers.
Anna Ulimboka, a nurse who oversees the pregnancy testing in Arusha Secondary School, says the tests are a good thing. And many of her students agree.
Several girls told CNN they believe the tests are in place to protect them and they view them as a normal part of their school experience.
“Before we started testing them, so many girls used to get pregnant, while they were in school, but after seeing that they were being tested before and after going for their holidays, it makes them avoid relationships with boys,” Ulimboka said.
CNN visited the school accompanied by officials from Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, and the regional government office. Speaking in the presence of the officials, Ulimboka said the tests and the policy of expelling pregnant students were necessary.
“(A pregnant girl) is a ...
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