MUTASA – Four Grade 7 pupils from Nyakatsapa Primary School in Mutasa district, fell pregnant during COVID-19 lock-down, Zim Morning Post has heard.
A senior resident in Nyakatsapa village said the COVID-19-induced lock-down has been a harrowing experience.
“I can confirm that we have four Grade 7 students who fell pregnant during the lock-down period,” Tendai Pfachi, who is a former school development association chairman at the school told Zim Morning Post on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe Union Of Journalists (ZUJ) organised recent media tour of Mutasa Central.
Pfachi said the matter had reported to the police, but they suspect that the police were reluctant to act.
“The police came and took statements but up to now, nothing has happened in terms of arrests,” Pfachi said.
“The lock-down period has come with a lot of bad things. The government must now allow all children to go back to school because what is going to happen is that we are going to have more girls impregnated,” he said.
Illegal gold miners at the nearby Premier Estate are known to be sex predators and are reportedly using the power of the United States dollar as bait, villagers said.
“The other thing is that the young girls are spending a lot of time with the perpetrators of abuse and this has caused so much problems,” he continued.
The presidential directive to lock-down the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while helpful for curbing the spread of the disease, has impacted negatively on young girls.
According to the irate villagers, a lot of them have become victims of defilement and teenage pregnancy. Rural families are many times idle, which predisposes them to sexual activity.
Mavis Sakupwanya, a villager, said that teenage pregnancies are common but many parents conceal information from the Police and partners working in child protection and protection as a whole.
“The lock-down has come with various surprises. We have been seeing a lot of teenage pregnancies in our communities. We were not expecting that this could happen. Most parents fear to open up on or report these cases. This may end up affecting the girl child negatively,” she said.
Sakupwanya fears “parents we are grappling with increasing cases of defilement and teenage pregnancy following the lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I think this issue must be looked at.”
Reached for comment Manicaland police spokesperson Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said his office had not received such a report.
“My office has not yet received that report, but the fact is that if the girls have reached the age of consent and they assented to sex, then the police cannot act on that one,” Kakohwa said.
“On the other hand, if the girls were underage or if the girls were rapped, then there is an issue. We are going to investigate the matter,” he added.
The Manicaland Provincial Education director Admore Shumba said he had not received any reports regarding the pregnancies.
“I have not received that report at the moment. As you may know, schools are closed and as an office, we might not have such information. Perhaps it is because of this closure, but when schools open then we will be in a position to see who is absent and then we will be able to take action,” he said.
Mutasa Central legislator Trevor Saruwaka said it was alarming that some teenage girls had fallen pregnant during the lock-down period, something which could have lifelong consequences for them.
“We are extremely concerned about their well being and access to healthcare and other support services,” he said.
“Even before the crisis, girls and young women in my constituency faced considerable challenges in accessing essential health information and services.
“Now, amid a pandemic that is straining even the strongest healthcare systems, there is a real risk that sexual and reproductive health and rights will be de-prioritised, with devastating consequences for the girls,” he explained.
Saruwaka called on government and the private sector to embrace new ways to strengthen the national health systems, implement comprehensive education on sexuality and relationships in and out of school.
“There is great need to tackle the root causes of adolescent pregnancies. We will make sure that government does more to support pregnant girls and young mothers so that they complete their education,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa in August approved the Education Act Amendment – passed by the Parliament of Zimbabwe that prohibits the expulsion of pregnant students.
The amendments reads: “No pupil shall be excluded from school or non-payment of school fees on the basis of pregnancy.”
Priscilla Misihairambwi, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, said the newly gazetted law will enhance the access of education to girls.
“It is important to pass this Amendment Act because it is crucial in giving the girls the right to education.
“This will effectively address the gender disparities,” she said.
The well-being of thousands of girls in Zimbabwe could be at risk, amid wide reports of unintended teen pregnancies since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown period.