The Prime Minister, Mr Kassim Majaliwa, yesterday warned that parents or guardians who marry off their school-going age daughters face prosecution and 30 years in jail as police in Rukwa Region have arrested three parents for the offence.
He observed that there were people who thought the matter was a mere joke, insisting that the government would spare nobody over child marriage. Mr Majaliwa asked parents to say no to early marriages so that their children can concentrate on their education for their future.
He was speaking during separate public rallies held at Ikwiriri and Utete in Rufiji District, Coast Region. The prime minister said it was high time the law took its course to get rid of early marriages as well as dealing with early pregnancies.
“Communities should now change by shunning the common habit of negotiations between offenders and parents of the affected girls so that we can find the final and conclusive solution to the vice,’’ he directed.
Mr Majaliwa said the parents who will collude to have their school children married and those who will participate during issuance of dowry will be treated as parties to that offence, prosecuted at once and sent to jail immediately.
“If you know that you are a mother or father and then get your daughter married, you should prepare to spend 30 years in jail … this shall include witnesses of that marriage,’’ he added.
Mr Majaliwa further asked schoolgirls in Rufiji District to discourage the act of teenage pregnancies and early marriages saying that they added no value to their lives.
He requested the communities to observe the maximum level of morals as well as inculcating into them the education loving culture instead of engaging themselves in evil habits.
“I also want to remind school girls to concentrate into their subjects so as to avoid temptations that are likely to land them into trouble and totally ruining their future.
Meanwhile, PETI SIYAME reports from Sumbawanga that police in Rukwa Region have arrested three parents for allegedly marrying off their daughters aged 15 years old, who were in Standard VI at Chipu Primary School in Sumbawanga Municipality.
Similarly, one of the schoolgirls, who has been married at the village has been apprehended together with her parents for interrogation. Her husband, who has been identified as son of a retired teacher, Mr Daud Kwitwa, fled to unknown destination.
In a similar matter, another schoolgirl and her husband fled from Chipu Village and settled at Malangali Village in Sumbawanga Municipality and reports had it that they got married in August at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church located at Malangali in the municipality.
The Rukwa Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr George Kyando, confirmed the arrest of the suspects, insisting that a manhunt has been mounted for the other married school girl and her husband.
The arrested parents are Sebastian Sangu, his wife Hilda Mizengo, their daughter and another male parent, Misri Mwanakatwe.
The Sumbawanga District Commissioner (DC), Dr Halfani Haule, told the ‘Daily News’ here that he made an impromptu visit at Chipu Primary School last week, accompanied by the Sumbawanga Municipal Academic Officer, Mr Frank Sichalwe .
“I visited the school after learning that there is an increase in absenteeism rate at the school. While at the school, I went straight to Std VI class and went through names of all pupils through on the class attendance register.
Out of 142 pupils, only 52 were present while 90 pupils were absent and I was told that they were known as truants,” Dr Haule said. According to the DC, after further enquiries, pupils themselves volunteered useful information to him that most of the truants have secured laid-back labour, including grazing cows, also revealing that two girls had been married off by their parents.
“I right away directed the OCD to trace down the suspects and arrest them and fortunately in the same day father and mother of one of the married school girl were arrested together with their daughter, but her husband managed to flee to unknown destination. But at night, another male parent was arrested,’’ explained the DC.
According to the DC, who is also a District Defence and Security Chairman, police have mounted a manhunt for another married schoolgirl and her husband who had gone on hiding at Mlangali Village.
The Municipal Academic Officer, (Primary Schools), Mr Sichalwe admitted to have been informed that the other schoolgirl, who was in Std VI at Chipu Primary School and his man got married in August, this year, at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church at Malangali Village.
Mr Sichalwe said that the Chipu Primary School with 1,268 pupils while 336 of them are habitual absentees.
A cross-section of Chipu residents interviewed by this newspaper disclosed that Ms Hilda, the mother of one of the married schoolgirls, had been given 300,000/- by her son in-law.