Loan exonerates Tanzania stance on pregnant pupils

Tanzanian President John Joseph Magufuli.

Tanzanian President John Joseph Magufuli.

from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) THE approval of a loan worth US$500 million by the World Bank to Tanzania is a momentous shift by international financers from pressurising developing nations to renounce their principles as terms for accessing aid.

It is also a slap in the face of so-called human rights proponents and their allies in the opposition.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors recently agreed to provide the loan to enable Tanzania fund its secondary education programme.

President John Magufuli’s government is expanding access to education under the aegis of the five-year Secondary Education Quality Improvement Programme (SEQUIP) which has received the financial backing.

To the shock of organisations purporting to champion for human rights, the financial institution has endorsed the multimillion-dollar loan without requiring the government to end its policy of expelling pregnant schoolgirls.

The government’s critics were basing their hopes on the World Bank previously withholding a $300 million loan for the same SEQUIP project partly because of the government’s ill-treatment of pregnant schoolgirls.

However, in an exemplary stance to other governments in the developing world, Tanzania has stood firm on its policies of prohibiting pregnant schoolgirls from class. Magufuli, in power since 2015, has insisted allowing pregnant girls to schools promoted immorality and eroded the values of abstinence before marriage.

Stunned by the World Bank’s groundbreaking shift, activists are enraged and turned their anger on the World Bank.

“The World Bank should be working with governments to move education systems toward full inclusion and accommodation of all girls in public schools, including those who are pregnant or parents,” claimed Elin Martinez, Senior Children’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Instead, the World Bank failed to use its leverage and caved to Tanzania’s discriminatory ban and practices, undermining its own commitment to nondiscrimination,” the activist further charged.

The United States-based HRW claimed the World Bank’s so-called backtracking on pregnant girls’ right to education also raised concerns about the bank’s broader commitment to implementing its Environmental and Social Framework, which guaranteed that bank loans would not be used to further discrimination.

It alleges lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Tanzania are subject to state-sponsored discrimination if Magufuli’s administration saw indications the World Bank is not upholding own nondiscrimination principles.

The issue of LGBT people is among ethos foreign governments and foreign activists have sought to force on the African continent despite governments, laws and the majority rejecting them.

Some Western governments have in the past threatened to withhold aid if developing countries did not endorse these same sex relations.

Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, said every child in the country deserved a good education but thousands were denied this life-changing opportunity each year.

According to the World Bank, over the past two years, about 300 000 children, half of them girls, have been unable to continue their lower secondary education due to insufficient space in public schools.

SEQUIP will directly benefit about 6,5 million secondary school students by strengthening government-run schools and establishing stronger educational pathways for students who leave the formal school system.

“This is an important step in addressing the challenges that Tanzania’s children face throughout their education,” Warwick stated.

Alluding to the issue of schoolgirls and pregnancy, Warwick said, “The World Bank will continue our dialogue with the government on broader issues concerning equal treatment of schoolchildren.”

– CAJ News

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