August 2014 will forever remain etched in the memory of a 16-year-old girl from Mida area in Malindi sub county. That was the day she was forced to have sex with an older man just so that she could get sanitary towels and pocket money.
On that fateful day, she came across this man she later found out was a carpenter at Gede, about 12km from Mida. After he got to know about her very humble backgrounds and the challenges she was facing at school, he offered to give her Sh100 for pocket money daily and sanitary towels every month. That was sweet news for this ambitious girl who dreamt of getting a good education and eventually helping her family out of their desperate situation.
Little did she know that the decision would nearly cost her education and dreams of becoming a teacher.
“By then I was in standard seven and it didn’t take long before the man started asking for sexual favours. Shortly thereafter I got pregnant,” the class eight candidate at Mazizima primary school says.
We recently met the girl breastfeeding her three-month-old baby during lunch break just before the school closed for the August holiday.
“I got pregnant in August last year and gave birth on May 23 this year,” she says while breastfeeding the baby.
She reveals that the carpenter agreed to take care of the baby after learning of the pregnancy but he disappeared soon after.
“Life is very tough now. I have no money to bring up the child and at the same time study,” she says amid sobs.
She says her father is a casual labourer and mother is sickly.
When we caught up with her mother, Sidi Kalama, at home, she regretted that her daughter had compounded the misery at home by getting pregnant at such a tender age.
“It’s difficult to get food, shelter, and other basic needs for both of them because I have no job. I am also sick suffering from chest problems,” she says.
Kalama’s only hope is for the government to intervene and help her daughter pursue her studies without hindrance.
This is not an isolated case. Reports indicate that there are more than 10 teenage pregnancies in the school this year alone. Some of the girls have dropped out of school to fend for their young ones.
Kitsao Kaingu Baya is in agony after two of his daughters were impregnated at the same school.
One of them, he says, dropped out of school even before sitting her KCPE exams.
“The teachers are to blame for not protecting children at the school; they should be punished as they are undermining the education of our girls,” he says.
Some parents and pupils we talked to claimed some of the school’s committee members are reluctant to address the issue because they are part of the problem. A 16-year-old orphan says a committee member volunteered to help her after her father died.
“The official always came to our home but he behaved in strange way. The old man has since stopped facilitating my education after I rejected his advances,” she says, adding that there are six other girls complaining about the same man.
These teenage pregnancies are worrying the community, which already records very low standards of education.
One parent who donated his 12 acres of land to set up the school in order to help improve education standards in the area has been forced to transfer his daughter.
Hemed Ndonga says his daughter is a friend to all the girls who were impregnated at the school and fears the same tragedy could befall her.
“Cases of early pregnancies have really affected our community here at Mida. I have not been directly affected but what is happening is worrying and threatening the education of the girl-child,” he says.
“We found out that some committee members are linked to the pregnancies at the school. We want the government and all relevant authorities to take action against the perpetrators,” he says.
Ndonga wants the school committee disbanded and all teachers transferred.
The school administration refused to talk to us when we sought their comment about the claims.
However, it emerged the young girls are impregnated by elderly men and Bajaaj (motorbike) operators.
Malindi sub county education officer Samuel Macharia confirms the cases have been reported to him.
He, however, says they are unable to arrest the perpetrators as parents are hiding them, adding that efforts to get information about the culprits even from chiefs have proved futile.
“The girl-child in Malindi sub county is endangered. There are elderly people who take advantage of the minors to defile them,” he said.
He said most of those affected were lured by money and other goodies.
“We want parents to help us get these suspects so that legal action can be taken against them,” he said.