UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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Edition: #27 1 October 1997
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Government has stirred a hornets' nest in deciding that school girls who fall pregnant may return to class after giving birth.The church, some non-governmental organisations, some political parties and even some pupils have strongly condemned the ruling, generally arguing that it was a recipe for immorality.There are, however, some advocates of girl-child education who applaud the decision and call for its immediate implementation.Until now, any girl who fell pregnant was automatically expelled from school because it is contended that once pregnant she is not a parent and therefore can no longer be regarded as a pupil.
In announcing the decision, education minister Dr Siyamukayumbu Syamujaye said that girls who wished to re-enter school after giving birth would be allowed to do so.His under-scored reason was that girls were becoming mothers at an earlier age than before partly due to social and economic problems.He said that with some of the girls becoming heads of households due to death of parents, they should not be denied an opportunity to further their education that could help improve their standards of living.
Dr Syamujaye is supported in the decision by organisations like Women For Change and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).Women for Change executive director Emily Sikazwe notes that the high rate of pregnancies among school girls should be looked at in a broader contest of the prevailing socio-economic factors in Zambia.She notes that the factors play a cardinal role in the shaping of children's morals and their livelihoods. She contends that girls usually fall prey to these factors and can hardly be faulted let alone condemned and denied an education forever.
UNICEF Lusaka office project officer for education, Martha Santos agrees and adds that allowing girls to continue with their education after giving birth is basic to the acquisition of survival skills.She also notes that educating a girl-child was the beginning of addressing the problem of poverty eradication because an educated mother was more efficient. She points out that, for instance, a better educated mother, would be able to look after her child or children better.
However, random surveys carried out soon after the announcement indicated that most people are opposed to allowing the girls back in class."This will just promote immorality," says Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) counsellor Edith Mutale. She contends that it was wrong for government to make a unilateral decision without consulting those who would be expected to help effect this decision.But Syamujaye said at a recent symposium on education for the child, that the mechanism of effecting the decision was "purely an administrative detail".
There is also scepticism over whether this decision could cover all schools in the country considering that some private-owned and church-run schools had their own codes of conduct.Director of Gender in Development at Cabinet Office (government) Sister Auxilia Ponga notes that the government decision compromises the stand of some schools like those run by the Catholic Church. She wonders how a mother should be tolerated when having sex was on offence that attracted a sentence of expulsion.A pastor, Amon Phiri, adds that being a Christian nation Zambia should not be seen to be encouraging immorality.He contends that allowing mothers back to school would provide good reason for some girls to indulge in sexual activity.
Elina Nyirenda, whose daughter got pregnant and dropped out of school soon after entering secondary school, says:"It would be good for my daughter to get back to school but what example will she be setting for her younger sisters and friends."She adds: "I am happy to be a grand-mother, but I would be happier if my daughters got into marriage first."
A pupil at Matero Boys Secondary School, which is run by the Catholic Church, says the government decision was a green light to indiscriminate sexual misbehaviour among pupils.The pupil, preferring to be identified only as Leonard, said that since the fear of being expelled has been removed, what would stop girls and boys from throwing caution to the wind and getting into immoral activity.And a Lusaka street vendor, Harrison Mhango sarcastically adds: "Now there is no need to fear the possibility of high court fines if found guilty of impregnating these school girls."His contention is that since the fines were high to cover compensation for being responsible of abruptly terminating a girl's education, this argument can no longer hold since the girl's education can continue afterwards.
Several political parties have also condemned the decision, with the Zambia Democratic Congress charging that government was breeding immorality.Party spokesman Jonathan Likando says it is both immoral and unchristian to allow mothers back to class.He points out that although the Bible calls for forgiveness, this was not an issue that called for blanket pardons.
Whether or not the young mothers would want to get back to classes is another thorny issue.Usually, school girls who fall pregnant are stigmatised, as a pregnancy of a school girl is generally regarded as a shame for the girl and her family.The girls are often compelled to leave the community and to go and live with other relatives or, as most traditionalists demand, with the family of the man or boy responsible for the pregnancy.Recent research by the University of Zambia revealed that most girls who fall pregnant have no wish to get back in class.Professor Michael Kelly of the University of Zambia notes that most girls fear being taunted by school mates if they were to go back to their classes.
Santos, the UNICEF project officer, says there must be concerted efforts involving government, the community and schools to encourage the young mothers to go back to school after giving birth."What is needed now is to go out to schools and sensitise pupils, especially other girls, not to laugh at their friends but to accept them."
As a compromise, Sister Ponga suggests that rather than let these girls go back to school, they should be encouraged to get into adult education in which lessons are provided either through correspondence or in evening classes.She also suggests that government could establish special schools for such girls.
The debate, though, rages on and the absence of a common ground is likely to cause a delayed solution.And, with the majority of people seemingly opposed to the decision, implementing the policy is bound to be an even stiffer problem.
1. A - STRING OF FIRES PROMPT GOVERNMENT TO BUDGET FOR FIRE-FIGHTING EQUIPMENT
A spate of fires that have rocked Zambia in recent months has prompted government to budget K4.3 billion (about $3.5million) for the purchase of fire-fighting equipment next year.Government has also appealed for donor assistance for the purchase of at least 10 fire tenders immediately.All of Zambia 72 district councils are either poorly equipped or do not have any fire tenders.
The councils' inadequacies have been evidenced in recent fires which firemen have pathetically failed to put out.Local Government and Housing Minister Bennie Mwiinga has directed town planning authorities to form task forces and to ensure that all buildings have adequate fire safety equipment. Government action follows he recent burning of several markets, a restaurant, part of Cabinet Office, the seat of government and nine floors of a 19-storey skyscraper, Zambia's second tallest building.
Some leaders of the ruling MMD have accused opposition parties, particularly UNIP, of being responsible for the fires. UNIP has countered saying that it has irrefutable evidence that the state is responsible for starting the fires. Government spokesman David Mpamba, however dismisses the accusation saying that there was nothing to gain but everything to lose for the government in the fires.He said government investigations on the fires were still in progress.
2.ZAMBIA DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS CRACKS
The once formidable Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) has continued to crack under intense inter-party differences.Deep divisions have emerged in the party's executive with some expelled members forming their own parallel executive committee led by 'expelled' vice-president Dr Kasuka Mutukwa who is one of only two ZDC members of parliament.
A second key member of the executive, Thakor Pandoliker has resigned from the party because of alleged intolerance by the top brass.His resignation come a day after he was appointed treasurer and two weeks after the resignation of co-founder of the party, Derrick Chitala who was party general secretary.The ZDC is barely two years old.
3.OPPOSITION PARTIES ALLIANCE BEGINS TO FALL APART
A loose alliance of opposition parties has begun to crumble following the withdrawal of the Zambia Democratic Congress from the group and threats to do so by the National Party.The ZDC and the NP are the strongest parties in the National Patriotic Alliance, after UNIP.
A ZDC spokesman said the party would not like to be seen as a puppet of UNIP and that it would chart its own way in its fight against the MMD government. The NP's threats to pull-out of the now 12-party alliance have stemmed from their disagreement in the campaign to burn voters' cards.
4.MMD IN-FIGHTING ERUPTS OVER INTRA-PARTY ELECTIONS
Internal wrangling in the MMD has erupted in the party elections that have started with the lowest party posts at ward (grassroots)level.The most heated quarreling is between MMD Lusaka Province chairman Christopher Chawinga and Lusaka Province deputy minister Sonny Mulenga.The two have been trading insults since Mulenga declared his intention to contest the post Chawinga holds.
Appeals and warnings by the party national chairman, Sikota Wina, for an end to attacks against each other have gone unheeded.The tension is expected to heighten as the elections advance from ward level to constituency, district and provincial level.Senior members of the party have taken a keen interest in the elections because those who will be elected will be the delegates to vote for the National Executive Committee (NEC) members at the national party convention.The convention elections also include that of party president who would become candidate for the republican presidency. President Chiluba's second and final term runs out in the year 2001.
5.FREAK RAINS WREAK HAVOC
Unexpected rains in the middle of September caught Zambians in many parts of the country unawares.In some parts, the rains, coming two months before the usual rainy season, destroyed harvested crops kept in open barns.The rains also destroyed some buildings, the worse hit town being Kabwe, about 170kms north of Lusaka.
However, as predicted by meteorology experts, the weather has since cleared and Zambia enters its hottest month (October), amid predictions and warnings that Zambians must brace themselves for one of the hottest season in many years.
6.STREET VENDORS STAY PUT
A deadline set by government for street vendors to leave some roads in Lusaka's main commercial centre, has come and gone but the menace continues.Government had given a two-week ultimatum for the vendors to leave Cairo Road and Lumumba Road but the vendors have refused to move until government finds an alternative and suitable site.
Government had hoped that the opening of a new market in Lusaka would help, but this has not happened.Vendors are still in abundance on the streets and seem to be increasing in number.Local government minister Bennie Mwinga says the vendors will be moved only after a new site is found for them.A site was, however, found recently but the Lusaka City Council has failed to source money for the construction of a market on it.
7.FAKE DOCTOR FLEES AFTER BEING EXPOSED
A female doctor has fled from the small but busy town of Kapiri Mposhi where she had been treating patients for various ailments including HIV/Aids.
'Dr' Chisha left the town abruptly without completing the administration of medicines to some of her patients.Chisha left the hospital after one of the local news media exposed her as not being a qualified medical doctor.
Chisha is believed to have been using her husband's medical qualifications as proof of her ability in the field.
8.RETIREES DEMAND SACKING OF PENSIONS BOARD CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Over 10 000 have threatened to match to State House in protest if government does not sack Civil Service Pensions Fund chief executive Mathew Shitima. The retirees contend that Shitima is insensitive to their need to get their retirement packages on time.At a meeting held in Lusaka, the retirees demanded that President Chiluba replaces Shitima or they would march to State House (Chiluba's residence) in protest.Pensioners have for long been having problems in getting their dues and they blame board for the delays.
But Shitima has said that the delay has been caused by government's inability to provide funds.He said government had made it clear that it cannot fulfill its commitment of paying off all pensioners.He said he was only a front officer who can only give out what comes from the national treasury.
9.AFRICA CUP SOCCER DRAWS WORRY ZAMBIANS
Many soccer fans are concerned about Zambia's prospects in next's years Africa Cup of Nations finals following draws that have pitted Zambia against formidable sides Morocco, Egypt and Mozambique.They contend Zambia has the toughest draw and it would be difficult to qualify for the quarter-finals from the group.
The Africa Cup finals will be played in Burkina Faso next February.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 12:15:53 +0200 Subject: ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE #27 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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