The high number of young girls dropping out of schools due to early pregnancies and early marriages has shocked a Non Governmental Organisation- Charity Centre for Child and Youth Development in Zambia.
Statistics in most rural parts of Zambia have revealed that some parents prefer marrying off their girl child to taking them to school therefore denying them an opportunity to access education.
Lufwanyama District on the Copperbelt Province is an example that has seen young girls being pulled out of school to enter marriage as a source of income for their parents.
It is however shocking that despite hosting one of the Best Boarding Schools in the Province, the school is occupied by those from other towns as the hosts prefer marriage to education.
A chat with a number of young girls, exposed how some parents have resorted to bad habits of marrying off their children at a tender age for financial gain.
“I am Nancy (not real names), I had my child when I was 17years old and now I am expecting another. I am married and my husband is a farmer just here.I love him because we stay together. At first I didn’t want to get married but when I failed grade nine exams twice my parents told me to get married.At first I refused and they stopped giving me food that is how I entered into marriage”
“It was not easy at first especially when I was pregnant, but for now I am managing and my husband is doing well.I would love to go to school but I don’t think I can even manage.I am not the only one married or with a child, we are many in the community if you ask around. It’s not possible for me to leave my marriage for school.My husband or even my parents cannot allow me,” narrated the 19 year mother of one and 6 months pregnant.
Another 18 year old girl has been forced into marriage immediately after finishing her grade 12 because she has no one to sponsor her tertiary level of education.
it’s wrong to marry them off but there are no options
Mirriam (not real names) said she has always wanted to become a medical Doctor but her dream has been shuttered because there is no one to sponsor her studies.
“I only got my results yesterday and here I am being called someone’s wife.I know my results are not very good but I was ready to get back to school and rewrite some subjects where I didn’t do well.I have 26 points and I was planning to reduce them so that I go to college. My parents told me that a man wanted to marry me and had already paid part of the bride price but I refused and went to my aunt’s place but they still came for me and took me to the man. He is a miner and the good part is that he is willing to take me to school after I have the baby. I am managing.It’s been difficult because I was just forced but I have accepted it. The dream of becoming a doctor is long gone.I will do something different when I decide” she told the reporter.
The two young girls are just among the many girls dropping out of school to get into marriage as a way of pleasing their parents.
“Surviving here is not easy, you take someone to school and their results are always bad then what can you do? Some of us have spent a lot of money on our children yet we get nothing in return, it’s wrong to marry them off but there are no options.
Personally my fear was that she may just get pregnant and I would lose out so it’s better someone marries her following procedure.
Another parent said ‘Most of my children are male ,the girls are too young, No i don’t think of doing that but when they grow older it will also depend on our financial status and their performance in school.’
Charity Centre for Children and Youth Development Executive Director Alex Bwaluka said it is painful to see how young girls are dropping out of school due to early marriages and pregnancies.
Mr Bwaluka who has been undertaking activities concerning children in schools is shocked that some parents have resorted to marrying off their children as a source of livelihood.
“A girl child has fallen victim to bad vices that have seen them get married at very tender age.
Surprisingly some parents find pride in seeing their children get married early for fear of the falling pregnant. For Northern Western Province Rational leaders have taken the issue very serious and warned that all those engaging in such vices will be punished. We must find a lasting solution to end this because the future of a girl child is under serious threat.” he said.
The need for concerted efforts to fight the bad vices cannot be over emphasised.
By Clinton Masumba