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A day of action for science

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“If we are to be able to address the enormous challenges of the twenty -first century – from climate change to technological disruption – we will need to rely on science and the mobilization of all our resources. It is for this reason that the world must not be deprived of the potential, the intelligence, or the creativity of the thousands of women who are victims of deep-seated inequality and prejudice.“
– Audrey Azoulay, Director General, UNESCO –

Today, on 11th February, we celebrate ‚International Day of Women and Girls in Science‚. On 22nd December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly decided to introduce a day to commemorate the crucial role played by girls and women in science and technology. Around the world, a great deal of research potential is still lost, as too few highly qualified women work in research. Whether industrialized countries or not, especially in the so-called STEM subjects (mathematics, computer science, science and technology) at the same levels of the education system, one is still far from gender equality. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the global share of women in research and development is less than 30 percent.

The educational situation in Tanzania

Education – especially university level – remains a privilege in Tanzania and, for many, the only hope for social advancement. According to the Federal Statistical Office, Tanzania has just 321 students per 100,000 inhabitants (2013) and 18 scientists per million inhabitants (2017). The proportion of female students is 35.01 percent. By way of comparison, it was 49.3 percent at German universities in 2019. Thus, women make up at least half of all students in this country.
A total of 49 universities and colleges as well as more than 500 registered educational institutions such as nursing schools, business or teachers colleges are now available in Tanzania. The most popular subjects are medicine and law. Overall, national policy is almost exclusively designed for science and technology subjects.
The problem for most is the financing of a degree, because both state and private universities charge tuition fees. For a bachelor’s degree, Tanzanian students pay between 400 and 600 euros per year. The state itself does not award scholarships, but young people can apply for tuition, which they should then repay interest-free – which rarely happens. Three times more places are applied for than are actually awarded.
Before studying, children and young people in Tanzania complete the school system, which is structured in three phases – modeled on the British model. In general, from seven years of age, the children begin their education by attending the mandatory, free primary school. This is followed by secondary school, which is split into two levels: four years of “ordinary” followed by two further, optional „advanced“ level years. After successfully completing their final school examination, young people can choose between three different third-level branches: university, college or technical institution.
But sadly, girls in particular rarely make it to this point…
Mädchen in einer Schuleklasse in Tansania

The ban on pregnant girls attending school

Maidas Hassan Ilonga was sitting in class when police officers dragged her out of the classroom in 2018 and locked her up in a cell for a day. Her offense: she is pregnant. Even her parents, who had invested everything in their daughter’s education up to that point, were locked up. A warrant for the arrest of the father of the unborn baby has been issued. The 19-year-old and her parents went free on bail. Maidas, who was about to graduate from high school, is no longer allowed to return to school and complete her education. Her dream of becoming a doctor is over.
Like Maidas, four other girls were banned from school in the Tandahimba district of southeastern Tanzania.
This is due to an extremely strict clause written into the Education Act in Tanzania. Those who become pregnant are no longer allowed to go to school. The practice of excluding pregnant girls from school has been around in the East African country since the 1960s. A so-called ‚moral clause‘ confirmed this in the Education Act 2002.
Tanzania in particular is particularly affected by teenage pregnancies – the rate is one of the highest in the world. In 2016, 27 percent of girls were affected. On average, according to the UN, one in four Tanzanians between the age of 15 and 19 is already a mother.
With the school ban, President John Magufuli wants to reduce the high rate of teenage pregnancy – by deterrence: „As long as I am president, no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school,“ he declared in a June 2017 speech. „If you get pregnant, that’s it for you.“ Free education in the country is only for those „who really want to learn“.
Human Rights Watch estimates that about 8,000 young women are forced out of school each year. This is problematic, because without having learned English or to read and write properly, there are no opportunities for young girls in Tanzania to advance in life.
There are multiple reasons for young pregnancies: false promises, rape and a lack of sexual education are the root causes. For most ethnic groups in Tanzania, talking to adults about sex is taboo. Biology teachers only roughly explain the body parts. Information about condoms or the pill is frowned upon, because education is considered an advertisement for sex.
In fact, education would be the solution out of this vicious spiral. Fewer children per woman and longer school hours lead to higher incomes. The UN Population Fund has calculated that the growing number of early pregnancies cost the country more than five billion dollars each year.
Since last year, a World Bank-funded program “SEQUIP” enables young women in Tanzania to finish their education even after pregnancy.
Ein Feiertag für die Wissenschaft

Sport is a door opener for a better future for children

Talking to children about sexuality is difficult, both at school and at home. Jambo Bukoba has also had this experience time and again during its work in Tanzania. That’s why we try to approach these taboo topics in a playful way with specially developed games. The teachers, who are trained in our „LIFE SKILLS THROUGH GAMES„, concept are able to build trusting relationships with the children in physical education classes. This makes it easier for both sides to discuss sensitive issues such as AIDS and contraception. Girls in particular are more likely to be affected by new infections than boys. Four out of five people living with HIV between the ages of 15 and 24 are girls.
In Tanzania, when it comes to education, girls have a lower priority – regular schooling is not a given. Girls in the Kagera region are often absent from school because they have to do housework or carry drinking water from a water point miles away. They often have to leave school prematurely because they are married off early or they have to work to support the family.
To empower girls, they need self-confidence. To defend themselves. To say “No!”. To know what happens when they have sex. That is why we aim to strengthen the self-confidence of the young girls, to make prejudices disappear and to educate them. This is the only way to reduce new infections and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
And that ultimately leads to more girls finishing school and realizing their dreams – to perhaps study medicine one day….
One who dreamed of studying medicine as a young child is the Tanzanian scientist Professor Mary Justin-Temu. In our blog tomorrow she tells us in an interview how she has fulfilled her dream, what exactly she is researching and what she wants for the future of the girls in Tanzania.
If you would also like to support our goals, we welcome your donation. With your support, we can enable the construction and renovation of classrooms and water tanks and teacher workshops. You can also support us on a voluntary basis with your skills!
Written By: Steffi Eisenlauer
Sources:
https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day
https://www.womeninscienceday.org/index.html
https://www2.daad.de/medien/der-daad/analysen-studien/bildungssystemanalyse/tansania_daad_bsa.pdf
https://static.daad.de/media/daad_de/pdfs_nicht_barrierefrei/infos-services-fuer-hochschulen/laendersachstaende/expertise-zu-themen-laendern-regionen/tansania_daad_sachstand.pdf
https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/womenandgirlinscienceday
https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/teenager-in-tansania-schulverbot-bei-schwangerschaft.979.de.html?dram:article_id=458056
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