Tanzania's coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has vowed to continue campaigning for the re-admission to school for girls after giving birth.
The lobby group said, in a statement, that its members were not afraid of the threat by Home Affairs minister, Mwigulu Nchemba, to ban organisations campaigning for the teen mothers' return to school.
President John Magufuli on Thursday last week ruled out giving teen mothers a second chance in public schools.
The Tanzanian leader said the CSOs advocating the re-entry opportunity should build their own schools for the girls.
“The government is giving out free education for students from Standard One to Form Four, with a budget amounting to Ksh18.78 billion ($8.5m) every month, and now you want me to educate the parents? That’s impossible,” President Magufuli said.
The acting director-general of the Legal and Human Rights Centre, Ms Anna Henga, said CSOs would not compromise on the rights of girls.
“We cannot remain silent on this issue, our motivation is the girls themselves, their quality of life and the opportunities they have to progress. Women and girls make 51 per cent of the population in Tanzania so there is a bigger need for the government to reconsider its decision,” she said.
“What we are doing here is our existence, we were registered for the purpose of defending and advocating right of the people, we shall maintain our positions according to the law,” she said.
The coalition said it would not stop making noises on issues of public interest and that CSOs deregistration should follow legal procedures.
The lobby's statement said majority of citizens were in favour of girls being allowed to continue with their education and that the government should consider public opinion.
The importance of education for teen mothers, explained Ms Henga, has also been stipulated in the 2015 election manifesto of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Education and Training Policy (2014), which also make reference to removing barriers to schooling.
“Even neighbouring countries like Kenya have the re-entry policies, moreover Zanzibar has since 2010, allowed girls back in school after giving birth as a strategy for reducing the number of dropouts,” she elaborated.
The executive director and a founder of girls’ right advocacy Msichana Initiative, Ms Rebecca Gyumi, underscored the need for continued public and policy debates on the matter, saying there was a huge opportunity for the government to learn from the public.
“Their views and wisdom should be considered, matters of public interest require intensive debate from stakeholders in order to find the best way forward for all,” she explained.