‘I was kicked out of school for being pregnant’
Debra from Tanzania is one of many who have been banned from returning to school because they fell pregnant while in school.
In 2017 Tanzania’s president John Magafuli banned teen mothers from returning to public schools claiming they could be a bad influence.
When she fell pregnant, life became difficult.
“I fell pregnant while I was still at school, when I was 17. I had to stop attending classes to take care of myself and prepare for the birth.”
“My parents are just peasants, farmers and traders. They tried to offer me what support they could but there were times where I used to starve. It was a struggle providing food and clothes for my children. For sure my circumstances were extremely difficult.”
After searching for an alternative to her plight in her community, a family member who had gone through teenage pregnancy also told her about the Faraja Centre.
The Faraja Centre in Arusha, in north eastern Tanzania was set up to help girls in Debra’s situation. It offers young mothers a day care facility so they can study vocational courses.
“I am grateful that I was made to feel welcome here. I was able to enrol in catering and hairdressing courses which are all marketable skills.”
Unfortunately, there are only a few centres like this in Tanzania. Debra says however, she hopes more centres like Faraja are opened for people like her because they need care.
“Initiatives like these are important and I pray that it continues because Faraja gives girls like us a chance to raise our children and at the same time help ourselves to gain life skills.”
“People shouldn’t discriminate against teenage mothers. They should care for the young girls when they get pregnant.”
Now a graduate of the centre she is determined to make it in life for the sake of her children.
“I’m determined to make my own future. I am proud to have graduated from this course. When I leave here I am going to start my own business and earn some money to look after my children and send them to school.”