Sunday, February 14, 2016

Early marriage: Nightmare for Zanzibari students

By Haji Nassor, Pemba                        +255777870191

“I was married on 2nd January, 2013 and on 19th February the same year, was divorced when I was four months pregnant,” said a young woman of 19 years of age, a resident of Mchangamdogo, Wete district in Pemba.

Her dream of becoming a scholar began to fade from October 2012, when she became pregnant from her boyfriend.

"When I told him that I’m pregnant, he refused to accept the responsibility. He mocked and abused me, but I got the courage to report the police quickly,” she said.

The girl, who is now doing handicrafts in order to get money for keeping her pregnancy, regretted her action, after she came to know that police decide to ignore her problem as well.

She indulged in a romantic relationship after finished form II at Mchangamdogo secondary school, while she was visiting Unguja Island.

“At the beginning, I wasn’t not interested with him, but as the days passed by, I found myself changing ,” she said.

“He came with persuasive language and always told me that she wants to get married, but he was liar, he just wanted to destroy my life,” she narrated.

Speaking with her at Mchangamdogo, the girl said that the boy was doing construction work at Benjamin Mkapa Teachers College.

“After living in Unguja for some time, I decided to go to Dar es Salaam to visit my family, I decide not to tell him that I was leaving, but  he came to know of my impending departure and thus, he followed me and took me on his friend's room, where we had sex and there I got pregnant,” she said.

After returning to Pemba with her pregnancy, she did everything possible to hide from her family members, but later her family came to know.

“After two and a half months, I started going to the police to seek justice and soon after the boy was arrested and reintegrating with my family,” she said.

“I didn’t know him well, since he came from Arusha and that why my mother refused to marry me, but I rejected. We married for a short time before he divorced me,” she said.

Having lived in marriage for 456 hours, she decided to return to the school since she was bright in science subjects.

“My dream is to become a doctor; I admire to volunteer for my community, but were fruitless,” she said. She continues to take care of her son through funds acquired in the entrepreneurial skills.

Her parents said they refused her daughter to get a married but she rejected, stressing that she must marry her.

“I believe that there are many girls who are doing well, but there are some young people take them back,” said Ali Mohammed Kombo, father of the daughter.

"If my daughter was not sexually motivated at a young age, I believe she would have become our family hero,” he said.

Her classmate, Haitham Hamad Haji, says early pregnancy is a serious problem for students.

“Students are faced with great challenges and if they are not careful they will fall into this nightmare,” she stressed.

Siajabu Suleiman Pandu, Zanzibar Registrar of Education, says the behavior of some parents, causes high drop out for women students.

“It happens when a student is very bright, but she married  her off simply because her father want money. You know many parents think that a solution of such cases is to get married; they do not understand that they denied their daughters  educational rights.”

Asaa Makame Said, is a sheha of Mchangamdogo shehia, he said he did all he could to ensure the girl's case goes to court but he failed.

The local resident, Siti Khatib Ali, says that it discouraged, because some girls wanting to own valuable items like phones, while they have no source of fund.

Sheikh Said Ahmad Mohamed from Mufti's office, he said, a solution of this problem is for parents to be aware about the importance of education for their girl.

“If we act quickly to help female students academically they will do better,” she said.

Bishop Benjamin Kissanga, says everyone is free to access to education.

Asha Haji Makame, a residents of Kichungwani, she suggested that, in order to eliminate early marriage, it is for the government to retain the services of free education to all.

Headmaster of Kangagani secondary school, Muhidin Haji Khalfan, says the source of early marriage for students, is the presence of bad law which do not guarantee child protection, especially for the girls.

Northern Pemba Regional Police Commander, Hassan Nassir Ali, has continued to call on the community to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to control these actions.

TAMWA Project Officer, Asha Bakar Makame, says their organization has been struggling to ensure parents let their daughter to attend schools but awareness has not been very satisfactory.

She said TAMWA has coordinators of the women and children to all shehias, to tracks cases of violence against women and children.

Reports from the Ministry of Education Pemba show that there are 19 students from Micheweni, Wete and Chake Chake districts that they married from 2013 to September 2015.

In the same period the ministry received five cases from Micheweni district, 12 from the Wete district and two cases from Chake Chake.

Zanzibar education policy of 2006, stated that education is a fundamental right and should be protected as other rights and that there will be no sexual abuse of any kind.

Zanzibar preservation and development of the child policy of 2001, completely prohibits parents and guardians to make girls as a way to increase income.

The International Agency for Child Development, explained that more than 14 million girls are married with less than 18 years old, in the Sub-Saharan Africa.

UN Resolution to reduce all forms of abuse of women (CEDAW) does not permit children under the age of 18 years to marry

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