Tanzanian President John Magufuli banned teenage mothers from returning to public schools in a decree.
In Tanzania teenage pregnancy can cost young mothers the opportunity to get an education.
President John Magufuli’s decree banning teenage mothers from returning to public schools is strictly enforced, and teachers who refuse to comply are disciplined.
In the northern town of Shinyanga, where more girls get pregnant than anywhere else in the country, blocking girls from returning to schools after their babies are born is putting more pressure on non-governmental organisations, like the Agape Knowledge Open School.
The non-profit centre in Shinyanga rescues girls from early marriages and provides shelter to pregnant teenagers.
Sofia, 16, told Al Jazeera she was raped by her brother-in-law. She has a one-year-old baby. Her brother-in-law, a teacher, has gone into hiding after she took the matter to the police.
“After the incident, I told my sister – his wife – but she would not believe me. She started mistreating me, beating me saying I must have been promiscuous,” Sofia said.
Some of the girls say that they were taken in by men, often older than them, who showered them with money.
Jacqueline, 17, is six months pregnant and says she was drawn to the generosity of her unborn baby’s father – a 22-year-old casual labourer.
“He gave me money and gifts. I would buy my personal things like underwear with the money,” she said.
“My parents… they don’t have much money and they are burdened with taking care of my five siblings and I,” she added.
The government estimates that there were nearly 70,000 teen pregnancies last year. Shinyanga has the highest rate in the country.