People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda has challenged the Patriotic Front government to come up with aggressive policies to protect the girl child than focusing on retaining power in 2021.

But Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri says her ministry in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Ministry Community Development were working at identifying which of the teenage pregnancies were in school so that they could be enrolled back.

Commenting on the high prevalence rate of teenage pregnancies in Eastern Province, Banda expressed shock at the growing trend among teenagers in selected parts of the country.

He observed that idle youths had now turned to rampant alcoholism and sexual activities because they had nothing else to do.

Eastern Province recorded a total number of 24,731 teen pregnancies last year, with Chipata ranking first with over 5,000, followed by Lundazi with 4, 898 cases.

“I was in Lundazi over New Year and driving around you could see that young girls are drinking alcohol like no man’s business! I think it’s a case everywhere in the villages because really, first of all, farming has gone down and people don’t have much to do,” Banda narrated in an interview in Lusaka.

He challenged the PF government to institute controls and come up with deliberate policies that would protect the girl child rather than running propaganda about the increasing number of schools that were built.

“There is no goal, really, that is there towards that, everything is being done to focus on retaining power; there is no policy pushed aggressively to protect the girl-child, and that is the reason we have reports that a lot of girls have been impregnated in Lundazi,” he explained.

In a separate interview, however, Minister of Gender Elizabeth Phiri said the policy of taking the girl-child back to school after delivery is in existence and is being implemented by the Ministry.

“We [Ministry] take back the child to school because we take that child to be on a woman level, but prematurely, so she is taken back to school,” Phiri explained.

She added that her Ministry, in collaboration with Ministry of Education and Ministry Community Development, have a project that looks into the welfare of teenage pregnancies centred on sending those children back to school.

“As a Ministry, we have received those reports of teenage pregnancies in Eastern Province, and the only thing we have to establish is to know how many are in school, then depending on the performance and recommendations from the teachers, the girls are taken back,” said Phiri.

Research released last year by the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) has indicated that girls have continued to drop out of school at an alarming rate because of poor implementation of government policies such as the re-entry policy.

Camfed research executive Christine Mushibwe noted that the re-entry policy was not effective enough to help girls get back to school because it was implemented differently.

As many as 43,000 girls nationally are dropping out of school annually, 11,000 of who are due to early pregnancies, according to Camfed data.