The rate at which school going girls have been impregnated during this Covid-19 pandemic is alarming. As things are there is a crisis of teenage pregnancies in Kenya at the moment. On 3rd March 2020, the government of Kenya launched a National Campaign against Teenage Pregnancies, through the National Council for Population and Development seeking an end to teen pregnancy. The campaign is focused on galvanizing communities on the need to end teenage pregnancies through awareness and advocacy citing its negativity on socio-economic growth.
The three months that school going girls have been home since schools were closed due to Coronavirus has left many expectant mothers.
In 2018, when Ambassador. Amina Mohammed was the Education CS she pointed fingers at teachers as the perpetrators of teenage pregnancies something that left a number of teachers struck off from the teaching role, some deregistered, blacklisted and gazetted for abusing female students and some were kicked out of the profession. School heads were accused of protecting the perpetrators and told to avoid cover ups of their staffs.
In 2019 as Prof. George Magoha took over the education docket he ordered school heads not to expel pregnant girls. He further told them to readmit those girls six months after giving birth so that they continue with their education.
Early June 2020 Prof. Magoha blamed parents who give birth to children and they aren’t able to provide the necessary parental care, saying they should be able to care for their kids.
He was devastated by a case where he took three girls from the slums, took them to school, gave them scholarships and now they are already pregnant since they went back home due to the Covid-19 crisis. He attributed this to laxity on the parents’ side.
Even after Kenya launched the National Campaign against Teenage Pregnancies in March this year the rate of pregnancies is high.
Who is disseminating the information of this campaign? Are all girls living in remote areas aware of the campaign? Are the perpetrators being charged in law courts?
Teenage pregnancy sometimes is a result of poverty, a girl may lack some basic needs and get tempted to look for a man who can help her get what she needs. Let us say for instance sanitary pads and other items.
Sexual violence has also contributed a lot in the rise of teenage pregnancy. Most teens are raped by people they know and those they don’t know.
Lack of information about sexual and reproductive health has contributed too to teenage pregnancies.
Peer pressure has contributed a lot to teenage pregnancies where a girl does what her friends are doing hence caught up in a trap.
Early engagement to sexual activities can also be attributed to such cases, linked in part to the burden of curiosity.
Parents Promiscuity is another problem. A teenager emulates what the parents do, the type of life they live. Again if a teen stays with her mother alone and the mother is fond of entertaining different men who show up at her house, the same men might abuse the girl hence impregnating her or the teen will learn that life is about sleeping around with men.
Parents’ absenteeism is also key. Teenagers are left alone in homes by their parents. They do things on their own. This may make them indulge in activities that are not appropriate.
Teenage pregnancy leads to school drop-outs since the girl may not get back to school as a result of the shame and guilt.
Teenage pregnancy leads to early marriages where in some families when a girl gets pregnant the responsible man is forced to marry her hence limiting her future opportunities.
According to the government data, teenage pregnancy is at a rate of 40 percent in some Counties. The latest being Machakos County where 4000 school going girls have been impregnated in the last four months.
Therefore, it is a duty of parents to provide sexual education to their teens. Teach them on the dos and don’ts so that they may grow up knowing what is right and wrong.
During this Coronavirus pandemic period parents should be on the forefront to ensure that their children are engaged with home chores as they supervise them peruse in their books.
Many parents have taken this period to use their children to do businesses for them. Parents should be present and available throughout for their children so that they may not get a way to escape and involve in sexual activities.
When perpetrators are taken to courts the law should take its course. Many teens have suffered since parents collude with the perpetrators or the law maker too colludes with the perpetrator to deny a girl her justice.
Should the government review its education policy/ reforms and introduce sex education in schools syllabus to help curb the crisis?
As teachers were being blamed and pointed fingers by everyone including parents when girls got pregnant while in school, now the same fingers should be turned to parents during this Coronavirus period. Parents should take up their responsibilities and ensure that their children who are girls are provided by necessary needs to reduce teen pregnancies.