Mozambique drops decree discriminating against pregnant schoolgirls

The Mozambican Ministry of Education has revoked a decree of 2003 which ordered all pregnant schoolgirls to attend night classes, and banned them from day classes.

The spokesperson for the Ministry, Manuel Simbine, cited in Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, made excuses for the 2003 decree, claiming that it responded to the specific context of the time, characterised by violence in the schools, and a high number of teenage pregnancies and of girls dropping out of school.

“The current scenario is different”, he said. “Society now thinks differently. We have to accommodate the new vision, thoughts, realities and conditions of learning that we didn’t have in 2003. Today we have means of keeping pregnant girls at school during the day, and one of them is distance learning”.

In fact, the 2003 decree was always strongly criticised, as a measure that discriminated against girls, and which, by obliging them to travel to and from school at night, exposed them to further dangers.

The scrapping of the 2003 decree takes effect as from the 2019 school year. It is a victory for the “Education for All Movement”, a civil society initiative which argued that the decree was an attack against the constitutionally enshrined right of girls to education.

A spokesperson for the Movement, Tassiana Tome, said that repealing the decree is an important step forward in defending the rights of women and girls.

“There are still many challenges to guarantee gender equity in access to education, and to combat the various forms of violence against girls, inside and outside school, ranging from sexual harassment to forced marriages”, she said.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Conceita Sortane has announced the detention of seven members of the Ministry staff on suspicion of leaking exam papers to students.

This academic fraud was detected in the 12th grade (pre-university) physics exam in Maputo city and province, and obliged the authorities to cancel the exam and reschedule it, with different questions, for a few days later.

Cited by the independent television station STV, Sortane said “Seven people have been detained in connection with this situation, because we discovered the scheme used to leak the exams”.

Those arrested “work for our Ministry”, she said. “Some are administrative staff and some are teachers”.

She revealed there was another case of attempted fraud, but it was nipped in the bud. Without mentioning the subject concerned, Sortane said the exam paper was annulled the day before students were due to sit it, and replaced by a different set of questions.

Students who had illicitly acquired the old exam paper were shocked when they were faced with a completely different set of questions. “This is the result of the laziness of those students who don’t like to study”, remarked Sortane.

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