The new Education Act a Triumph for Girls.

The new Education Act a Triumph for Girls.

Today Zimbabwe celebrates Independence Day amidst the Corona Virus Disease (COVID 19) that has hit the world. Many Zimbabweans scattered all over the world,   celebrate this day with mixed feelings. At Tariro, we wish every Zimbabwean a happy independence day and as we commemorate 40 years of independence we acknowledge the new progressive provisions of the Zimbabwe Education Act as a Triumph for Girls.

Imagine two young teenagers in secondary school fall in love, or at least they think it is love. Let’s call it infatuation. They become wildly infatuated with each other, and he pursues her intently with the help of his comrades. Everyone in their class knows what’s happening, and the attention she receives is completely flattering. Her girlfriends have now taken to calling her “Mrs Moyo”, so let’s say the boy’s name is Takudzwa Moyo, Taku for short, and she is called Rudo.

So the girls, in a classic fashion, bestow a new surname on Rudo and declare the pair to be soulmates. Rudo knows she’s not supposed to have a boyfriend at 15 years old, her parents forbade her, but Taku is so handsome! And all her friends think they should date, and she really likes him…besides, who will tell her parents? Rudo throws all caution to the wind and embraces these exhilarating feelings she has; a beautiful teenage love affair begins.

The two spend their time in class passing each other little love notes, they sit together at break time, at lunchtime, at supper time, and now Taku walks his belle as close to her hostel as he can whenever the chance arises.  They are completely besotted with one another. At first, all they do is hold hands, after all, Rudo cannot bring herself to completely disobey her parents, but the pull of young love is strong. Soon it becomes hard to ignore the urge to be wrapped in his arms in an equally innocent hug; thus, they find a new way of greeting and parting.

Desire is a wild thing, and possibly entirely overwhelming for young minds who have yet to experience any of it. It was to be expected that Taku and Rudo couldn’t ignore the curiosity anymore, tormented by their feelings. How could he not drop a kiss on her lips when she was standing in his arms staring right into his soul with those beautiful, brown eyes? And that pretty, shy smile that brought out her left dimple? He had to kiss her, and after her initial shyness, she’s more than happy to comply.

They find all the hidden nooks and crannies on the school grounds to hide and try all the different ways of kissing under the sun. Predictably it doesn’t end there, not when their bodies are screaming for more and not when their infatuation is so intense and binding. Eventually, their hands start to wander all over each other, and the resulting sensation is wondrous. Rudo can’t quite remember why her parents insist this is a sin; how can touching someone you love be a sin? How can the expression of love be a sin?

Anyways, I’m sure you know the rest of the story, where this is going. Neither of them knows what they are doing precisely, but they figure it out. Rudo has a vague idea, and Taku has seen how it’s done, on the internet secretly on his smartphone at home. Eventually, they figure out how sex works, and now there’s no stopping them. It’s not uncommon at 15 and 16 years not to fully understand the consequences of their actions, after all their biology teachers always skimmed over the ‘embarrassing parts’. And Rudo and Taku know that if you do it standing, Rudo can’t get pregnant; sperm can’t compete with the pull of gravity.

It’s only a matter of weeks before Rudo realizes something is wrong. This is the second menses she’s missed. She never ever skips a month. For the three years since she started menstruating, she’s never missed a month, after the inconsistent initial year. She can’t tell her mother because she knows what this could mean, even though she is not vomiting in the morning like they always show on TV. Maybe it’s nothing, perhaps it will go away; at this point she can only hope and pray, and wear baggy clothes at home.

Back at school after the holiday, Rudo struggles to hide her growing belly, her only comfort the sweet things Taku whispers to her, trying to hide his panic. The truth couldn’t be hidden forever. The boarding mistress in Rudo’s hostel soon notices something amiss. The case blows up. Rudo and Taku are put through a hearing, and as punishment, Taku receives a thorough beating from the school headmaster. Rudo’s parents are called, and she is expelled from school. The school head cannot have a pregnant girl in school, what kind of example that would set to other girls. Her mother weeps pitifully, and her father can barely look at her. They know no school will take her now. A pregnant Form 4 girl, in the first term of the school year. She’ll have to sit out the year. Unfortunately, her father is wondering if keeping her in school is worth it if she’s just going to spread her legs for another idiot.

I can’t begin to imagine how many times this has happened; the girl is expelled, and the boy goes on with his life. Previously the Law in Zimbabwe said nothing about how pregnant girls should be treated, but you would expect that school authorities would treat her with more compassion and empathy. How pregnancy could prevent her brain from working is yet to be understood, and school heads often chose to stand on moral high ground.

The decision of what would happen to girls in these situations was often left in the hands of the school headmaster. While a few chose to allow the girl to remain in school, most often decided on expulsion on the basis of morality. But there’s good news, the new Education Act (No. 15, 2019) passed in parliament bans expulsion of girls from schools on the because of pregnancy. What that headmaster did to Rudo is now illegal.

It’s a triumph for the girl child in Zimbabwe, one to be celebrated. While at Tariro Trust, we do not condone getting pregnant as a child (there are various issues here), we understand that girls can find themselves in that situation for various reasons. When that does happen, there’s nothing more to do than deal with the situation as fairly as possible, with the girl’s future in mind. If you hear a case of a girl expelled from her school because she’s pregnant, report it…it is now officially illegal.


Author bio:

Yvonne Feresu lives for this. For speaking to readers like you, fighting these battles at your side and hoping that with each written word she can convince you to help make the world a better place too, for girls. She writes a…lot, and volunteers for Tariro


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