Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has been condemned for comments that girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school.
An online petition has been set up and a pan-African women’s organisation is mobilising to get the president to apologise and reverse his comments.
Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: “After getting pregnant, you are done.”
A law passed in 2002 allows for the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.
The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”.
Women’s rights groups have recently been urging the government to change the law.
Mr Magufuli, who was speaking at a public rally in Chalinze town, about 100km west of the main city Dar es Salaam, said that young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school:
“After calculating some few mathematics, she’d be asking the teacher in the classroom: ‘Let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby.'”
He said that men who impregnate the schoolgirls should be imprisoned for 30 years and “put the energy they used to impregnate the girl into farming while in jail”.
I had just finished my primary education; I was supposed to go to secondary education but could not afford the fees.
I met this smart boy, who promised that he would ask his parents to help me go to secondary school if I agreed to be with him.
I didn’t date him, like girlfriend and boyfriend.
The first time I met him was the first time I got pregnant and that was the last time I saw him.
Because I was kicked out of school, my grandfather chased me out of home.
I eventually found work as a maid. When the family left, they asked me what I would like as a goodbye gift.
I said I wanted to go to school. It was a shock but they eventually agreed.
It is a big disappointment to hear such a statement from our president. It is only education which can help any country in this world overcome poverty.