COVID NIGHTMARE

40,000 North Rift girls, boys may drop out of school

School closure due to Covid-19 has caused high teen pregnancies, increased drug abuse

In Summary

• Human rights groups say eight counties in North Rift have recorded more than 20,000 underage pregnancies. Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia have more than 5,000 each,

•  Covid-19 that led to closure of schools in March will have far-reaching impact on lives and education of many girls and boys. 

Youth youth recruited for the Kazi Mtaani initiative in Eldoret.
COVID CRISIS: Youth youth recruited for the Kazi Mtaani initiative in Eldoret.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

More than 40,000 learners in the North Rift are likely to drop out of primary and secondary schools due to pregnancies, early marriages, drug and alcohol abuse.

Eight counties in the region have  recorded more than 20,000 teenage pregnancies while two Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia have each reported more 5,000 cases, according to human rights groups.

They say the closure of schools in March due to Covid-19 will have far reaching adverse effects on the education of girls and boys.

Mary Kiptoo of the Gender Equality Group yesterday welcomed the reopening of schools for some classes. She regretted that the long period the children stayed at home had caused problems.

“The Covid-19 situation remains critical but many parents wish all children could resume learning," Kiptoo said in her Eldoret office.

The worst-affected youths were those in the slums of Eldoret and Kitale where teenage pregnancies and drug abuse are on the rise.

She commended the government for the Kazi Mtaani initiative, noting that it had engaged youths in gainful employment.

Meanwhile, a legislator and a parents association have asked the government to prepare well for the reopening of schools for the rest of learners in January. 

Elgeyo Marakwet Woman Representative Jane Kiptoo said thousands of girls are already pregnant while other youths are being ruined by drugs and alcohol.

Nicholas Maiyo, the chairman of the Kenya National Parents Association, said the safety of learners must be prioritised in the reopening of schools plan.

“We need proper and sustained distribution of quality masks in schools to help protect learners," Maiyo said in Eldoret.

He said the crisis of teenage pregnancies and other problems arising from school closures would lead to dropouts and called on the government to give special attention to those children.

(Edited by V. Graham)