The World Bank has reportedly postponed its decision to lend Tanzania $500m following pressure from civil activists.
The loan, which the bank’s executive board was due to vote on Tuesday, has divided opinion in Tanzania over plans to use part of it to offer alternative education to teenage mothers.
Pregnant schoolgirls are by law barred from returning to school after giving birth. They can only pursue other forms of education like vocational training.
The colonial-era law contains a clause that allows the authorities to expel pregnant girls from school.
The World Bank had announced that the loan was intended, among other things, to help such girls access “alternative education pathways”.
But Tanzanian activists wrote to the bank to argue that approving the loan would be endorsing the “discriminatory policy” of keeping pregnant girls away from schools.
They said that the law had been given a new lease of life by President John Magufuli’s government and officials had been “overzealous” in implementing the controversial clause.
According to a World Bank document outlining the proposed loan, about 5,500 girls were barred from continuing with their secondary school education after becoming pregnant in 2017.
On Monday, President Magufuli urged government officials to ignore critics of the policy saying “The vice-president of the World Bank came here last year – they will give us money knowing Tanzania’s stand and what we are doing. The rest [of the people] are just noise makers, don’t even respond to them.”
In 2018, World Bank withdrew a $300m loan to Tanzania amid concerns over the country’s policy of expelling pregnant girls from school.