There has been mounting outcry over the increasing number of teenage pregnancies in Kenya, which is keeping hundreds of girls out of both primary and secondary school education.
Recent statistics from the Ministry Of Health indicate that a total 378,397 girls in both primary and secondary schools (10-19 year olds) across the country became pregnant in the period between July 2016 and June 2017.
According to the ministry, 28,932 ten to fourteen year-olds became pregnant in that twelve month period and 349,465 fifteen to nineteen year-olds.
EARLY PREGNANCIES – IMPACT ON EDUCATION AND HEALTH
The disturbing statistics were revealed in a speech by Programme Manager at the ministry’s Family Health division, Dr Jeanne Patrick, which was presented by Kigen Korir, a programme manager at Adolescent Kenya, on Thursday at the closing session of the 13th annual meeting for primary school heads.
Early pregnancies not only cause girls to drop out of school, they also impact heavily on their health, social and economic outcomes, issues that Dr Jeanne addressed in his speech.
“The economic and social burden on families has been overwhelming,” she said.
In January this year at least 26 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy. The girls from schools in Narok North and Narok South got pregnant during the December holidays after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
In March 2016, the country was treated to shocking headlines after 20 school girls between the ages of 14 and 18 at Chelebei Secondary School in Kopsiro division, Mt Elgon Constituency were found to be pregnant.
Tragically, a standard six pupil committed suicide at her grandfather’s home in October after realising she was pregnant.
In the just concluded KCSE exams, a candidate in Busia County was forced to sit the Maths paper 1 examination in her maternity bed, after she went into labour during the exam.
MOST PREGNANT GIRLS DROP OUT OF SCHOOL
Although the government allows pregnant girls to remain in school and resume after delivering, most end up dropping out due to stigma.
Teachers have blamed parents for the rising cases of teenage pregnancies saying that they are not hands-on with what their children do during school holidays.
Parents have also been blamed for not engaging their children in sex education and abdicating the responsibility to teachers.
Sex is still considered a taboo in the African set up thus majority of parents keep off the discussion.
Peer pressure has also been a key cause of teenage pregnancies.
Rape has also become sadly commonplace, with reports indicating that teenage girls are the most abused age group of women in the country.