The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) has rejected a considerable number of young female University graduates admission into its newly established National Internship Programme on the basis that they were pregnant.
Explaining the decision, which some have described as a violation of the young ladies’ human rights, Principal Public Relations Officer at MLHA, Lebogang Bok, said that although the National Internship Programme does not regulate individual choices of graduates who wish to enroll in the programme, there are guidelines which clearly stipulate the requisite conditions for admission into the programme.
“As such, it would be incumbent upon the entrant whether they are ready to enroll in the NIP,” stated Bok.
Information passed to the Sunday Standard by impeccable sources indicates that at least seven people have been ejected from the programme since it started two months ago because they fell pregnant during the course of their service in the programme.
University of Botswana academic, Professor Lydia Nyathi-Ramahobo, took a critical view, of the ‘prohibited pregnancy’.
She said there is no valid justification for making pregnancy a condition without stating how it affects the ultimate intended objectives of the internship programme.
“Unless it was a given that basing on a definite time frame and defined vision following completion of internship, interns would then proceed into some pronounced activity, but in this case it is unclear what follows after the programme,” argued Nyathi-Ramahobo.
“If University students who are predominantly young people, are not restricted from conceiving whilst schooling, despite the intense academic work they are bombarded with and yet they still manage to make their way through, why should they be treated like little children on this particular programme?” questioned a woman activist who declined to be mentioned by name.
She said that this amounts to micro-managing the young women’s lives as if their whole life depended on the internship programme.
In a bid to calm the storm, the Ministry official adopted diplomatic clich├®s.
“The programme is voluntary and therefore open to (willing), and unemployed citizens of Botswana school graduates with degree or equivalent from tertiary institutions in and outside Botswana,” said Bok.
Bok posited that, basing on the guidelines that every new entrant to the programme are given and subsequent medical tests, “interns who fall pregnant during the course of their internship will be released from the programme, but given priority in the next intake following delivery and on production of a medical report indicating their fitness to proceed with the programme.”
According to Bok, “Interns voluntarily withdraw from the programme for various reasons. Some withdraw as they find employment somewhere else, others go for further studies and some have employment contracts which they have to complete before they can enroll in the programme.”
On the accusation that Government’s decision verges on violation of women’s rights, the MLHA official held that cannot be true as there is a proper arrangement for releasing interns who fall pregnant during the service for maternity and absorbing them back in the programme.
She said that all rights of any circumstances of interns are a priority and that Government, however, believes the interns have the responsibility to balance their rights with the obligations following commitment to participate in the programme.
As such, the underlying principle is ‘easy in’, ‘easy out’.
Thus, for some, the very fact that there seems to be no specific and binding business for which one is obligated to complete the whole 12 months proposed period for the internship shows that it is unsustainable and, to a large extent, devoid of direction.