52 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls in five counties were exposed to physical and sexual violence during the 8-month period they stayed out of school following the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, according to a new report launched by Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Kobia.
The report; “Promises to Keep: The Impact of COVID-19 on Adolescents in Kenya”, investigated the impact of Covid-19 on adolescents in Kisumu, Nairobi, Kilifi and Wajir counties.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent girls and boys were analysed under seven categories: remote learning; teen pregnancy; return to school; mental health; economic effects; early marriage; and gender-based violence (GBV) and safety.
The same report also revealed those 250,000 girls and 125,00 boys did not return to school when learning resumed, due to lack of school fees and teenage pregnancies.
Over 100,000 failed to resume school due to teenage pregnancies and early marriages while boys were subjected to child labour.
There was approximately 100,000 early marriages (aged 15-19) among the girls in this study, 32% got married after COVID-19 started, 44% got married because of pregnancy, 16% claimed they would not be married if there was no pandemic, and 24% stated that it was not their choice to be married.
“We have come to the realization that schools are a safe space for girls. When girls are confined at home with people, even those close to them, the issues of defilement and assault arise,” Prof Margaret Kobia said during the launch.
According to the Ministry of Gender, the report will inform the government’s roadmap to support adolescents to ensure that they achieve their potential.
“Putting the spotlight on the adolescents is critical because during the adolescent age which is the stage between 14 to 19 years, adolescents are trying to identify themselves and require emotional support and guidance. When there is setback like the pandemic, it is an additional challenge to them and if no investment made to support them, they will have a bleak future”, she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost all groups, including adolescents, and it has deepened pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, education, and economic system.