In their one-roomed mud shanty in Kibera, Lucy (not her real name), 15, sits playing with her five-month-old baby. She is devastated and lost. Her agemates are either in school or waiting to join.
If fate was on her side, Lucy would be among the thousands of children joining form one. But hers is a frustrating time, as she stares at hopelessness in the face.
She is among the teenage mothers made in 2018. “I got a baby in July last year but I still sat for KCPE and managed to score 206 marks, despite the challenges,” she said.
While her jobless mother, Tabitha, is willing to stay with the baby and let Lucy pursue secondary education, the needy family lacks the school fees to allow her join St Monicah Munyaka, Nanyuki, which she was called to. “I desperately want my daughter to continue with education because that is the only way she can come out of the mess she got herself in,” Tabitha said.
The family is yet to collect her KCPE result slip from St Stephene Educational Centre, Kibera, due to an outstanding balance of Sh4,200. The headteacher, Christine Juma, who the family thanks for supporting Lucy, says she is hopeful Lucy will continue with her education. “There needs to be a way to take her to school. Otherwise, she will give up and get another baby or even decide to get married,” she said.
EARLY SEX DEBUT
Growing up in the slums of Kibera, Lucy was exposed to sex early in life. She had her first intercourse at the tender age of 12. At 13, on the eve of Christmas Day of 2017, Lucy spent the night at her boyfriend’s house. “I got pregnant that night,” she says. Her mother says there were days Lucy asked to go spend nights at her friend's house and she let her.
In January last year, she reopened school not knowing she was pregnant. A month later she missed her menses, and that's when she suspected it. “By now I had parted ways with my boyfriend and he had even moved back to his village, never to be heard from again,” Lucy said.
While two months pregnant, Lucy who was still hiding the pregnancy from her parents, could not keep up with school and the sicknesses that come with pregnancy. She dropped out. “I would leave home in the morning and spend the day loitering the slum,” she remembers. At some point, her father got wind that her daughter wasn't going to school, and as it is with many Kenyan homesteads, he went to her mother for explanation.
Tabitha had it rough with her husband, whom she describes as hostile. Things got worse when the teacher broke the news to the parents that their daughter was pregnant. “During one of our mentorship programmes in school, I realised Lucy was worried and I decided to call her aside and she said she was stressed and needed time to open up. She would later come back to me and tell me she was pregnant,” said teacher Christine.
With the help on an NGO, Polycom Development, which deals with girls’ empowerment, Christine took it upon herself to counsel her and lure her back school while still pregnant.
To run away from her violent father, school became her other home. The teacher would even house her in many instances, when home became unfriendly. “My husband would come home drunk and send me away with my daughter. He was violent and abusive. There were many nights we slept in the cold. In some of those nights, teacher Christine came to our rescue,” said Lucy’s mother.
Lucy went to school until she was seven months pregnant, when she got tired and took a rest. A month later, Lucy, accompanied by her daughter, resumed school as she tried to catch up with studies since examinations were just two months away.
“Everyone in school, from pupils, teachers and workers, was extremely supportive. The teachers and workers would take care of my baby while I study and I would only be called to breastfeed,” she says.
Lucy* (not real name) and her baby at her parents' house in Kibera. /MONICAH MWANGI
Such friendly people would only be found in school. She would go back home in the evening to insults and beatings. “I wished I would forever be in school. My father never wants to hear the baby cry. He until now sends me away, asking me to go to whoever impregnated me whenever the baby cries at night. It’s not easy,” Lucy said.
For now, Lucy, whose dream is to become an editor, is trapped in the unfamiliar grounds of motherhood, waiting for a miracle to happen to make her join secondary school. “I am here for now, staying with baby Evelyne and doing house chores, but I pray the situation changes. I wish I would be in a position to tell a girl in class seven and eight to be careful and mind their education first. I wish I listened to someone say it,” she said.
Leah Adhiambo of Polycom Development says they are still trying to talk to Lucy’s father, who is a casual labourer, to make him fully accept Lucy back to the family. “Her situation at home is pathetic and this might make her despair,” said Leah.
The father had been requested to sit through the interview but declined and his phone went unanswered. Tabitha says her husband drinks through frustrations, adding that even their first daughter got a baby when she was 16.
Nearly 30 pupils gave birth countrywide during last year’s three-day primary school national examination period.
Education CS Amina Mohamed asked quality assurance and standards officers at the ministry to investigate the cases of pregnancies among school girls. The investigators are also to identify the factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy.
“These children should be in school and not nursing babies. They are babies themselves,” Amina said.
“Let’s not expose them to things they are not supposed to be exposed to people at such a tender age.”
She called on parents and guardians to protect minors, adding that the government will punish those responsible for the pregnancies.
“Preliminary statistics show that the magnitude of the problem is far bigger than we had initially thought. We are staring at a national challenge,” Amina said.
“We are dealing with a complex issue and will work with all relevant government agencies to effect the urgent changes required.”
Amina praised the Teachers Service Commission for taking decisive action on teachers who sexually assault learners.
Kenya National Examinations Council chairman George Magoha said parents are responsible for their children falling pregnant at an early age.