SENIOR Chief Kalindawalo of the Nsenga people in Petauke district is partly blaming day secondary schools for child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
Meanwhile, over 70 school going teens in three Chadiza schools are said to have fallen pregnant.
Kalindawalo argues that where secondary schools have no boarding facilities girls are forced to outsource accommodation making them free range to men.
He said the high prevalence of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the district was worrying.
During the launch of by-laws on ending child marriages and teenage pregnancies at Nyamphande Boarding School in Petauke last Friday, Kalindawalo said traditional leaders were hopeful that by-laws on ending child marriages and teenage pregnancies would help curb the vice.
“We saw it befitting because we believe that alone you cannot go far but where we are many as chiefs, as parents we can go far. May I take this opportunity to assure the minister that we will endevour to pursue these chiefdom by-laws with the seriousness they deserve to change the current status quo,” he said.
Kalindawalo also said Plan International was a ‘darling’ to the traditional leaders due to the work it was doing.
“The mushrooming of day secondary schools are also contributing to child marriages and teenage pregnancies as young girls are forced to outsource accommodation making them free range to men,” he said.
Kalindawalo urged school administrators to construct dormitories that could help provide security to school going children.
Plan International interim country director Mwape Mulumbi said her organisation had been working in the area to end child marriages and teenage pregnancies for the past 10 years.
Mulumbi said without involving the boys and girls in the campaign to end child marriages and teenage pregnancies, the fight would not be won.
“It is critical that we work with the girl as well as the boy. The family is also critical because this is where they let go of a girl child and a boy child into early marriage. If as a family, uncles,
aunties and other family members take action we are going to end child marriages. The third actor are our community leaders including the traditional and religious leaders who are custodians of our communities and through the action that we have taken today of developing by-laws, this is a responsibility that this group of actors is supposed to take for us to end child marriage,” she said.
Mulumbi said the government had shown great commitment in ending early marriages.
Gender minister Elizabeth Phiri who was the guest of honour said Petauke has one of the highest rate of child marriages in the country at 35.2 per cent.
And Chadiza member of parliament Salatiel Tembo has bemoaned the high rate of teen pregnancies in Chadiza schools.
“As at now, there are 18 girls who are pregnant at Chadiza Day Secondary School. Out of these, five are grade eights. Chanjowe Day Secondary School, 20 girls are pregnant and we as parents are rushing them into early marriages. Bwanunkha Primary School, 40 girls are pregnant,” he said. “This saddens government. How can it encourage the Head of State, the Ministry of Gender? Let’s help each other to reduce this vice.”
Tembo also commended Plan International for spearheading the formation of the by-laws.
Meanwhile, Tembo said the people of Chadiza district would only breathe once the bad roads which have led to high transport costs are worked on.
Launching by-laws to end child marriages and teenage pregnancies in Chadiza on Thursday, he appreciated the government was doing everything possible to take development to the district.
“Our cry as a district is that we wouldn’t have been where we are today if you had done one thing for us and if President Edgar Lungu is going to do this for us, other people that are in far areas will come here,” Tembo said. “Without hiding you [Gender] minister (Elizabeth Phiri) life is expensive here in Chadiza, things are expensive in shops, movements from here to Chipata, the cost of transport is as twice as the price from Chipata to Katete. Katete to Chipata is about 84 kilometres but Chadiza/Chipata is about 74 kilometres but here we are paying a lot. We are paying K90 to Chipata while in Katete which is 84 kilometres, it is K30.”
Tembo said the transporters were saying the bad state of the road to Chadiza was not helping them.
“They are saying the roads are destroying their vehicles. Because of this Hon minister, please, we have agreed, we have written letters and big people know. When are we going to breathe here in Chadiza so that the problems that we are facing of high transport costs could be minimised?” asked Tembo. “We are asking; there is only 30 kiloemtres from Chadiza Post Office to T4 at Chiswa, if they can start by tarring that road, it means other things will be easy.”