from: Ouko joachim omolo
The News Dispatch with Omolo Beste
SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2013
Homa Bay County Governor Cyprian Awiti expressed concern over the weekend about cases of school pregnancies and early marriages in his county. This is the county where cases of teachers defiling their students have proved uncontrollable. Many schoolgirls have dropped out of school after getting pregnant.
The problem extends to the neighboring Migori County where Suba and Nyatike districts have has been mostly affected. Other districts include Homa Bay, Ndhiwa, Mbita and Rachuonyo. These districts have been hit hard by the vice where a school could record up to ten cases of pregnancies in a year.
Efforts by authorities including chiefs to prevent parents from encouraging their daughters to get married at early age have not worked out either. Parents have also encouraged sexual relationships between their underage daughters and the miners in the areas because these miners have some money to spend both on the girl and on the parents.
According to Emily Waga, a senior children’s officer in the area this is happening because where poverty is common, girls become the best way out of it for many families. Many girls according to Ruth Adero, a maternal and child health nurse at Nyatike District Hospital are younger than 18 account for 48 percent of all expectant mothers visiting the Hospital.
Speaking to reporters in his Kisumu office recently, the area director of education Mr.Geoffrey Cherongis said the whole Nyanza Province is affected. Many of these girls are vulnerable because they are orphans and can easily be abused by men.
Apart from mining areas, the worst affected are those who hails from the fishing communities along the shores of Lake Victoria. Up to 13,000 Kenyan girls drop out of school every year as a result of pregnancy, and around 17 percent of girls have had sex before they turn 15.
Even though school’s policy in Kenya is to encourage girls to return to school after they give birth, many felt too stigmatised or had no help to look after their children and therefore stayed away or got married.
Many pregnancies have been reported from the slums. This is because many parents in the slum had inadequate control since work kept them away from their children, sometimes for days.
As a result, children learnt about sex from the wrong sources, such as the numerous video halls that allowed children to view pornographic films.
The girls also have to live in one room with their parents until they are mature, and many of them witness their parents having sex, so they learn about it early.
It is not only Homa Bay County or Nyanza that is affected but Kenya in general. It is reported that in Kenya, teenage pregnancies remain high at 18 per cent though with regional differentials.
In most cases, boda boda riders and relatives are accused of luring young girls with money and other goodies. Other culprits include amorous teachers, male pupils and members of the public.
Perhaps the most recent shocking incident is that of Chepkurkur Primary in Mt Elgon, Bungoma County where 18 pupils got pregnant and dropped out of school in June this year.
In the same month in Cheplanget Primary in Buret, Kericho County, five girls aged between 11 and 16 dropped out of school for similar reasons and boda boda riders were said to be the culprits.
Similarly, a survey by Plan International last year showed a total of 120 schoolgirls in Kilifi County dropping out of school due to early pregnancies.
Another survey by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) indicates that the Coastal region has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in Kenya after the former Nyanza province.
The report shows that 26 per cent of teenagers in the former Coast province become pregnant after Nyanza which has a rate of 27 per cent rate. The teenage pregnancy rate for Central is 10 per cent. This statistics were not provided for other regions.
Report indicates that girls aged 15-19 years within coast region had already begun child bearing, while in Murang’a County the highest number of teenage pregnancies accounts for 18 per cent of teenage pregnancies within Central Kenya region.
While according to national figures the youth who are below the age of 18 account for 46 per cent of the national population, about 16 million girls between the age of 16 and 19 give birth a year, this is despite the fact that the Children’s Act provides for children’s rights to education.
In Section 7(1) it states, “Every child shall be entitled to education, the provision of which shall be the responsibility of the Government and parents.” Section 7(2) affirms the right and entitlement for every child to free basic education, which shall be compulsory in accordance with Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Yet the numbers of those teenagers visiting clinics for ante-natal services are few since many cannot afford the services or live too far from the clinics. For others, affording a single meal is a problem.
Before he became pope, Francis spoke his mind about many of the most sensitive topics the Roman Catholic Church faces today and sex abuse among minors was one of them. From “On Heaven and Earth,” published in 2012, and his authorized biography “The Jesuit,” published in 2010 and republished last recently as “Pope Francis, Pope calls for sex education to help curb the mess.
But he warns; this is only if done holistically, with love and not just sex in mind.
“I think it should be done throughout the growth of children, adapted to each phase. … What happens now is many of those who raise the banner of sex education understand it as separate from the person’s humanity. So, instead of counting on a sexual education law for the entire person, for love, it’s reduced to a law for sex.”
The church had initially argued that it was too risky introducing the subject in schools because of suspicions that teachers and organizations that have been campaigning for the use of condoms could use the forum to supply the students with such devices.
In other words, sex education in schools should be handled by teachers of integrity and high morals and who are themselves trained on the issues so as to avoid a negative effect or influence on impressionable minds while trying to shape the lives of the young people.
In Sub-Saharan African by age 20, at least 80 percent youth are sexually experienced. For instance, 73 percent of all Liberian women aged 15 to 19 have had intercourse, as have 53 percent of Nigerian, 49 percent of Ugandan, and 32 percent of Botswanan women.
In many sub-Saharan countries, first sexual activity takes place before marriage. Among Kenyan women, the median age at first marriage is 18.8 years, while the median age of first intercourse is 16.8 years. Data also show that four percent of Kenyan men are married by age 18, although 64 percent report sexual intercourse before that age.
Factors that influence the median age at first intercourse include residence and education. In Kenya, rural young women engage in intercourse earlier than urban women, and the median age at first intercourse for women with no education, three years earlier than women with at least a secondary school education.
In a Ugandan study, 17 percent of young women ages 15 to 18 have undergone an abortion. Most of them are not prepared to take care of the children because the reason for having intercourse was not for having babies.
A review of 13 studies in seven sub-Saharan African countries show that adolescents between the ages of 11 and 19 years account for 39 to 72 percent of all abortion-related complications.
Young men often begin sexual activity earlier and have more sexual partners than young women. In Guinea, the mean age for first sexual intercourse among young men is 15.6 and among young women, 16.3. Further, Guinea’s sexually active young men report a mean lifetime number of four sexual partners, compared to 2.1 partners among sexually active young women.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
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Real change must come from ordinary people who refuse to be taken hostage by the weapons of politicians in the face of inequality, racism and oppression, but march together towards a clear and unambiguous goal.
-Anne Montgomery, RSCJ UN Disarmament Conference, 2002