Teen sex and pregnancies threaten Kenya’s future
Kenya’s youthful generation has variously been mentioned as a critical resource in national development and economic growth. Seeing that nearly 70 per cent of Kenyans are between the ages of 16 to 35, according to the last census, human capital is one of the most important resources Kenya has at the moment.
That is why all efforts must be made to harness the youthful exuberance to the nation’s advantage. Failure to do so, numerous analysts have warned, would set this country on a dangerous trajectory. That is why unemployment among the youth should concern every Kenyan and focus all their energies and innovations towards creating job opportunities.
When an educated and youthful populace finds nothing but despair in their lives, they turn to crime, including organised terror groupings. They do this after correctly or incorrectly being led to believe that they have nothing else to lose other than their hopeless lives.
Besides crime, a huge number wallow in alcohol and drug abuse as they while away idle time. The Government and various stakeholders have put in considerable measures to tap into Kenya’s youth potential, including providing access to education, mentorship and entrepreneurial programmes such as the Youth Fund.
The Government has even set aside some 30 per cent of public tenders for the youth. That is all good, but there are hundreds of thousands of uneducated youths who can hardly access any of the above-mentioned opportunities. Therefore, much needs to be done to pull the destitute youth out of abject poverty and vulnerability to recruitment into terror gangs, including the al-Shabaab.
Now, according to a shocking report we publish in this newspaper, there is another silent elephant in the room, gnawing at our youthful ignorance and parental neglect. Teenage sex and pregnancy are driving back the few gains made in providing a decent education and a better future for our youthful population.
The statistics are worrying and every parent should take note of this phenomenon. It is no longer helpful to turn a blind eye and keep mum about sex. The ‘little’ ones are getting ‘informed’ and eventually curious about sex at a very early age. Technology such as the Internet, mobile phones, TV, computers and even magazines have ‘fast-tracked’ life for the teenagers, barely able to make informed decisions on sex.
So, even if parents shy off the topic, the youngsters are getting enough tit-bits to set their curiosity up. They then set on ‘experiments’ fuelled by peer pressure and sometimes wrong advice by older friends or even relatives. The results are shocking.
Latest statistics indicate about 3,000 girls drop out of school annually due to early pregnancies across the country. Majority do not complete their education after giving birth. Only a few go on to get married and lead stable family lives. Majority of children from these relationships end up being destitute and the cycle of abuse and poverty continues.
Another statistic that should have parents cringe is that some 17 per cent of girls have had sex before they turn 15. Parents, and the society in general, must wake up to this reality and take appropriate action. This must be fixed urgently to avert the prospect of a rotten generation incapable of having stable families in future.
It has been established that young women aged 15 to 19, are twice as likely to die from complications in pregnancy as compared to older women.
Besides breaking up the social fabric binding a society, teenage pregnancies have also put a strain on health care provision. Resources that should be put into providing medical services to remote areas and to poor Kenyans are routinely used to treat complications in pregnancies that could have been avoided.
While peer pressure, rape, negative cultural practices, alcohol and drug abuse are largely to blame for teenage pregnancies, lack of sexual awareness among majority of youngsters has come out strongly as a major cause.
Wholesome social education, beginning at home and reinforced in school, that also takes into account religious and cultural sensitivities, must be given the importance it deserves, because therein lies the solution to our ‘youth’ crisis