EDUCATION

End teen pregnancies for 100% move to secondary school

In Summary
  • More than 13,000 adolescent girls drop out of school, propelled into motherhood before they are physically, emotionally or financially ready
  • This limits their educational attainment and earning potential, thereby increasing the likelihood of poverty
A pregnant girl in Utange, Mombasa county
A pregnant girl in Utange, Mombasa county
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

During the International Convention on Population and Development Nairobi summit 2019, Kenya committed to end adolescent pregnancy.

Announcing the 2020 KCPE results, Education CS George Magoha reported that about 200 out of 3,500 girls in primary school who were found to be pregnant sat the exam.

This clearly negates the vision of keeping girls in school. Chances are a significant number of the few who sat the KCPE exam may not see the inside of secondary school due to the socioeconomic challenges that come with giving birth too early.

The Global Childhood Report 2019 indicates that Kenya has the third-highest rate of teen pregnancies in East Africa. It estimates the teenage birth rate being at 82 births per 1,000 girls age 15-19.

Consequently, more than 13,000 adolescent girls drop out of school, propelled into motherhood before they are physically, emotionally or financially ready. This limits their educational attainment and earning potential, thereby increasing the likelihood of poverty and perpetuating intergenerational cycles of poverty.

Implementation of progressive policies and guidelines such as the school health policy, which requires intersectoral collaboration between the ministries of Education and Health to ensure pupils and students receive comprehensive sexuality information, often fall short of meeting international standards.

A study conducted by Africa Population and Research Centre in 2017 revealed that there is a lack of understanding and awareness about sexuality, and how to best protect oneself against unplanned pregnancy, among Kenyan learners.

It further indicates that most teachers focus on abstinence while the reality is that a quarter of students aged 15–17 had already had sexual intercourse at least once and thus needed accurate information on the same.

This affirms the Unicef report, which reiterates that programmes promoting abstinence only have been found to be ineffective in delaying sexual initiation, reducing the frequency of sex or reducing the number of sexual partners. While those that combine a focus on delaying sexual activity with other content are effective.

This calls for ground shifting and an urgent need for the adoption and implementation of a multi-sectoral package of interventions that have shown promise of effectively addressing adolescent pregnancy.

They include comprehensive sexuality education, informing and empowering adolescents to make well-informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, increasing access to modern contraceptives, building community understanding and support.

Programmes officer and project assistant at The Centre for the Study of Adolescence