Pregnancy cases in schools, threat to education sector in Burundi

Pregnancy cases in schools threaten the education sector. It becomes hard when those who are responsible for those pregnancies are teachers.

Désiré Hatungimana: "It is not easy to recognize a wolf hidden among the sheep".

Désiré Hatungimana: “It is not easy to recognize a wolf hidden among the sheep”.

N.J has just returned to school after dropping out due to unwanted pregnancy. The person responsible for her pregnancy is her teacher, who was hired to give her evening classes. The young pupil says: “He invited me to his house one day and gave me an alcoholic drink. I had never tasted it. I could not know what followed and later on found I was pregnant”.

The story of this girl with her teacher began when this student was studying in grade six, in 2013. His teacher, who is also a neighbor and a friend of the family, was asked to help her study mathematics course, her bête noire. “My dad paid him to give me evening classes. When I was in grade six, he raped me. I was afraid to report it because I feared to be discriminated and expelled from school”.

Relationships between the young student, her teacher and the whole family continued as if nothing had happened. The girl suffered but could not talk about it. After primary school, J.N was no longer taking evening classes. As a result, she and her teacher could not see each other regularly.

In grade eight, J.N hardly succeeded in mathematics. And the same teacher offered to help her “for free”. The girl accepted and the whole family didn’t object to that. He began to seduce her but the girl resisted.

In grade 9, the young teacher invited the girl home and this time, she found herself alone with her “teacher”. He gave her a glass of alcoholic drink. The girl slowly emptied it. She was unable to control herself after a while. The young teenager got pregnant. She had to drop out of school few months later.

Failure of an out-of-court settlement

When she learnt that she was pregnant, J.N informed her “teacher”. He behaved as a gentleman, accepted his responsibility for the pregnancy and promised to support her. He even said he was ready to arrange a marriage provided that the girl keeps the secret.

The girl still warned her family and an act of commitment was signed between the two families. “They agreed that a marriage should be arranged in three months so that I become his legal wife “.

The young teacher was afraid of losing her job and being jailed if the news came out. He tried to convince the victim to give in to parents’ demands and live together with him without legal procedures.
The girl accepted the deal but her father refused and went to court. Two days after they were living together as a couple, the teacher was arrested and imprisoned. The teenager was summoned to return home.

“I stayed at home and after eight months I had pain as I was bleeding. When I went to the hospital, it was too late, my baby was already dead. Only my family helped me to bury it. I was only supported by my family during all these trials, “said the girl in tears.

J.N returned to school a year after she had dropped out. His “teacher” languishes in prison. He has also been dismissed from the Civil Services.

When educators become predators

Désiré Hatungimana, provincial director of education in Kayanza province, acknowledges that the number of school-age pregnancies is worrying.

According to him, there are cases where it is unfortunately teachers who are responsible for these pregnancies. “Sometimes teachers, who are supposed to protect and guide students, forget their mission to educate”.

This authority states that during the previous school year, four pregnancy cases were recorded in Kayanza Province. “Two cases of teachers accused of raping and impregnating pupils were reported in Gahombo commune and two others in Gatara commune”.

Mr.Hatungimana says the authorities are trying to discourage this phenomenon. “Out of four known cases, only one teacher was brought to justice. Others left their job and quickly vanished. But all four have been dismissed from the civil service”.

He says there is challenge that handicaps the fight against this phenomenon. “At the level of the administration, the teacher is immediately fired to discourage this behavior. But, there are challenges at the justice side as those who are responsible for the act try to settle the case out of the court through giving bribes”.

The director of education in Kayanza province says it is difficult to identify that a given teacher is a “wolf among sheep”.

According to this educator, it is also difficult for a student to escape this kind of harassment. “The teacher exercises a certain authority over the pupil”.

Mr. Hatungimana says he has initiated an awareness campaign to deal with this scourge and adds that his efforts have already had an impact. “Last year, school pregnancy figures were high. But with the new awareness campaign, there is remarkable improvement”.

This director indicates that he has initiated a dialogue framework between teachers and school principals. “We give advice among colleagues and remind each other of the harmful effects in case of non-conformity”.

He says that female teachers have also to listen to and advise young girls about the consequences of early and unwanted pregnancies.

He also says they work together with the Family Development Centers (CDFs) and the administration to strengthen family education so as to eradicate this scourge.

The director of education in Kayanza province says that since the beginning of this school year, school pregnancy cases have significantly decreased.

In Kayanza province, the numbers of school girls who get pregnant have been alarming over the previous school year.