Kenya Lockdown Nightmare-Teen Pregnancy: 152,820 Girls Got Pregnant
The Kenya Health Information System last week released worrying statistics giving a list of impregnated schoolgirls per county between the months of March and June 2020 throwing social media into frenzy. A total of 152,820 girls between the ages of 10 to 19 girls got pregnant during this lockdown. Of the 152,820, 10,000 girls were between the ages of 10 to 14 years. This left many with unanswered questions with several people pointing an accusing finger at the church and to poor parenting skills. You see, unlike the heydays, the child no longer belongs to the village. Gone are the days when a child would fear doing anything wrong in public because they knew anyone watching was allowed to discipline them. Now society has failed miserably in this too because they believe that as long as it’s not their child, they have no say in the child’s well-being.
This brings me to sex education. This has become such a taboo topic in Kenya today with many debating on whether or not it should be introduced in schools. This, however, should be an ongoing discussion as a child grows from adolescence to adulthood. Abstinence is no longer popular and churches shy away from discussing issues fearing that young people will stop attending. During the time of Attorney General Gethu Muigai, the government passed laws watering down the institution of marriage, encouraging young people to live together without marriage (come we stay). The ouster of Gethu Mungai by president Kenyatta was at the urging of the Church whose foresight understood that what he was doing was going to result in what we are seeing happen to morality in Kenya today. This however did not change the collective actions of parents who are failing to guide their children. Many are now leaving the responsibility of moral teaching to schools.
Access to mobile phones among children in Kenya now stands at 88% with 7 out of 10 children having access to the Internet on a daily basis. This is the new past time for children especially those living in urban areas. This allows them to get all sorts of information at the comfort of their homes. While this information is out there, not everything is credible and safe to be consumed by innocent minds. Pornography and sexual decadence is prevalent online. Most of the parents who have provided their children with these devices are unfortunately absentee parents who are unable to monitor what kind of information their children are accessing online.
According to the executive director of Childline Kenya, Martha Sunda, sex education should be availed as a means to correct the wrong information being sent out to children. She says that it is important to equip the children well so that when they are learning from each other they learn and discuss truths. She adds that the discussion should start in the home setting as soon as a child begins to understand things by training them about body parts, showing them how to bath, telling them how to treat others and how to behave in any situation. This she says allows the child to trust a parent with any information.
The closure of schools during Covid19 is not helping the situation. It has created a wildfire with all the free time young people have in their hands. This has greatly
contributed to the rising numbers of pregnancies. Some of these cases are out of rape, and others as a result of teenage prostitution. Keeping a child busy with the right activities at this time will allow the child to develop skills and ideas that will benefit them for a long time to come. But with churches closed, children cannot attend youth activities like Sunday school, vocational bible studies and other important moral guidance.
For now, the Ministry of education is faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to reopen schools amidst this pandemic with the hope that they will be able to keep many girls in school. Those who are advising the president need to consider this important issue of un-wanted pregnancies, which plays a negative role in over population. It also increases the number of abandoned children, abortion, and adds to the population of street children.
By Jasmine Wambui
For Diaspora Messenger