World Bank withdraws £235m loan Tanzania loan over pregnant schoolgirl ban

Lender cancels funds intended to help east African nation's education ministry over human rights concerns

Toyin Owoseje
Thursday 15 November 2018 19:49
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Tanzanian President John Magufuli announced in Jun that students would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli announced in Jun that students would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth.

Tanzania has lost a £235m ($300 million) loan from the World Bank after reaffirming its policy of banning pregnant girls from school.

The money, a significant portion of a $500m funding package awarded in 2018, was intended to help the east African nation’s education ministry to improve access to secondary education and was scheduled for approval last month.

However, the Washington-based lender has now decided against presenting the education program to its board amid concerns over human rights violations, an official confirmed.

“The World Bank supports policies that encourage girls’ education and make it possible for young girls to study in schools until they reach their full potential. The economic and social returns for girls finishing their education are very high in every society for both current and future generations,” a bank spokesperson said in a statement.

“Working with our partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate girls’ access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government.”

It also criticised Tanzanian legislation which bars citizens from questioning official statistics, saying the law will undermine the production of useful, high-quality data.

Tanzania’s policy of expelling pregnant girls from primary and secondary school dates back to 1961 but has intensified in recent years. In June President John Magufuli announced that as long as he was in power no student would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth.

In 2017, a Human Rights Watch report concluded that the discriminatory policy contributed to 1.5m children being out of school in the country.

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The World Bank’s decision to withdraw the loan came the same day Denmark scrapped plans to offer £7.5m in aid following “unacceptable homophobic comments” from a senior politician.

Copenhagen, Tanzania‘s second-biggest donor, provided 349 million crowns (£41m) to the East African country last year.

“I am very concerned about the negative development in Tanzania. Most recently the totally unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner,” Danish development minister Ulla Tornaes said on Twitter.

“I have therefore decided to withhold DKK 65m in the country. Respect for human rights is crucial for Denmark.”

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