In Tanzania, getting impregnated also means getting expelled from school

MARY (not her real name) was 16 when she became pregnant. The father sold chips by the road near her home in northern Tanzania. She felt special when he gave her money. But when her belly swelled, he ran off. At school she was caned in front of teachers, pupils and her own shamefaced parents. Then she was expelled. “I would not have had sex”, she says, “if I knew you could get pregnant after doing it once.”

A quarter of Tanzanian girls aged 15-19 are pregnant or have given birth. The government’s response is to kick them out of school for good. Official statistics record that between 2003 and 2011, more than 55,000 girls dropped out because of pregnancy. This is surely a vast underestimate; cases are often recorded as simple truancy. The main way back into education is through vocational training or at a fee-paying school, which most cannot afford. This policy is reinforced by compulsory pregnancy tests. Teachers pull girls out of class to give a urine sample or, more often, to be…

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