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September 25, 2018

Teenage pregnancy hampers girls' education in Kajiado county

Beatrice, 15, breastfeeds her second-born child.
Photo/Agatha ngotho
Beatrice, 15, breastfeeds her second-born child. Photo/Agatha ngotho

There is an upsurge of teenage pregnancies in parts of Kajiado county.

Carolyne Ncharo, an assistant chief of Lenkishon sub location in Kajiado Central, says by the time many girls finish their secondary education, about 90 per cent have children.

“This can be attributed to female genital mutilation which is carried out as early as when girls turn six. In Maasai culture, one is considered a woman after undergoing FGM,” Ncharo says.

However, unlike in the past where old men used to marry young girls, these days it’s the boys who contribute greatly to the teenage pregnancies.

“The trend has changed and it’s no longer old men impregnating girls because the government intervened. It is now young boys less than 18 years who are impregnating our girls,” she says.

Angela (not her real name) is 15 and just sat her KCPE exams last week at Iibissil Township primary school in Kajiado county.

She is due later this month and her pregnancy kept her away from school in third term — she only came to school to sit the exams.

She says the boy responsible for her pregnancy is a 16-year-old, in form two. She is however optimistic that come next year, she will be able to continue with her eduction.

“We have agreed with my parents that once the results are out next year and I am admitted to a secondary school of my choice, I will leave the child with them and pursue my education,” says the first born in a family of four.

Beatrice (not her real name) gave birth to her first child at the age of 13 in 2013 and her younger one is barely two months old.

The father of her two children is in form one. They hope to start a family together when they are done with their studies. “I want to stay with my child for six months then go back to school.

Though getting a child is a blessing, education is the foundation. I would want to advise girls to avoid anything that would interfere with their education and instead think about their future,” says Beatrice.

Abdi Omari, the co-coordinator of the Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children Network, says when a child gives birth to another child, it negatively affects their future.

“Some of the information we are getting in parts of Kajiado county is depressing. It is worrying that at this time and age, we are still struggling with some cultural issues that impede on the rights of a girl-child,” says Omar. “We must be firm in implementing our policies and laws. This is the only way that the rights of children and women are respected.”

Ncharo says in the past, such cases were handled in kangaroo courts where elders fined the culprits Sh5,000 and several cows.

“But this has stopped as some families were seen to be using this to get money,” she says.

Ncharo says out of 10 girls, four are teenage mothers and the situation is the same from Narok to Loitoktok and some parts of Samburu. She attributes this to the long distances between home and school.

“Some of these girls have to walk long distances to school and on the way, they meet many men including bodaboda riders and charcoal burners who may lure them to have sex,” she says.

John Mwangi, the district children’s officer, says many teachers don’t know how to deal with teenage pregnancy cases. “The culture allows for compensation so in many cases, the family of the girl asks for cows and it is only reported when a disagreement on compensation arises,” he says.

He says in a month, they get about five teenage pregnancy cases but there are many more that go unreported.

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