National Democratic Congress (NDC) chairperson for gender Saboi Imboela has welcomed the announcement by government to introduce a law that will make it a dismissible offence for teachers to impregnate pupils.

Last week Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo made an announcement to Hot FM news that government would consider introducing a law that would make it a dismissal offence for a teacher to impregnate a pupil, and that the culprits would also lose their benefits if found guilty.

This was after Chipata District Commissioner Kalunga Zulu disclosed at the official opening of the adolescent health technical working group in Chipata that more than 5000 pupils had been impregnated in Chiapata district alone during the third quarter of 2018.

The District Commissioner further disclosed that the pregnancies where recorded from girls below the age of 20 and that some of the affected girls were still in schools while the others had dropped out.

Commenting on the matter in an interview with News Diggers, Imboela said her party supports the strengthening of laws to ensure that culprits are dealt with accordingly.

“Maybe when the culprits hear that their benefits can be terminated once that happens, they will be scared. But it’s not only teachers that impregnate pupils. Sometimes even the truck drivers in the communities where the girls live. So it’s about strengthening laws so that people are scared. If you look at developed countries, just a relationship between a pupil and a teacher, its a dismissible offence. Even at university level, female students are protected by the law and no lecturer can come near a student. But in Zambia you find that even at university, primary and secondary school teachers are so free to indulge in sexual activities with the pupils. So it’s because of that we have all these issues we are facing now. So for me, the law should start from the teacher-pupil’s involvement, even if a pupil hasn’t been impregnated. Just when a teacher is found wanting, I think they should be dismissed. Then for the terminal benefits, I definitely welcome what the PS said, it’s a welcome move,” Imboela said.

“Even if that law does’t go through, there are still other laws that should protect a pupils. Though for me, that’s the problem with the GBV laws that we have in the country, in that, after there is even that attempt by Parliament to bring certain bills into place, we have not yet enacted them into laws. So you find that when a law has been violated, you have to depend on other pieces of legislation to deal with that particular act. So nobody can be prosecuted for example for child abuse, but they will be prosecuted for another law, it can be assault on a child or other laws. But if certain laws against children, against women can be moved from just being ‘substantive laws’ to laws that can be found in the penal code, in that they can provide punishment within themselves, I think that will be a very welcome move.”

She further regretted that the number of girls that had been reported to have been impregnated just in one quarter of the year in 2018 was too much.

“Most of us have been calling for teenage pregnancies and child marriages to be declared a crisis in this country. We should declare it a national disaster and ensure that certain measures are put in place to deal with the issue decisively. We have had schools even here in Lusaka, you go there and you find that in just one term, there are about 49 girls that have been impregnated and the school teacher or any other culprit will even beg you to say ‘don’t publicise this information please, I don’t want to get embarrassed’. But when you go to the rural places, it’s even too much. And Eastern Province, in terms of early marriages and teenage pregnancies, it’s the highest in the country at the moment. So for me, those statics show that nothing and nothing much is being done. When we look at these teenage pregnancies and where the country is going, it’s a problem for all of us,” said Imboela.

“That is why some of us are never in Lusaka, we are all over Zambia to see what can be done by all of us as individuals and as organisations. The Ministry Chiefs and Traditional Affairs has launched a campaign against child marriages and early pregnancies but I don’t know how far that has gone. Those are campaigns which should not stop because if you look at the reasons why girls are being impregnated and married off early, the reasons are so culturally entrenched in many of these societies. So much really, needs to be done to change mindsets of individuals especially in rural areas about teen pregnancies and early marriages.”