VICTOR BWIRE: System to integrate teen mothers into schooling need attention

Matters including teen motherhood and parenthood and the push and pull factors have not been given adequate media attention.

In Summary

•Many of the harmful traditional practices that refuse to go away are because the media treat such vices as uniform acts that happen the same way across the country, which is not the case.

•Many programs on the media, especially access to unregulated digital content is exposing children to experiences, when if they want to try at home, have extreme outcomes.

Teen pregnancies are on the rise.
Teen pregnancies are on the rise.
Image: COURTESY

The media has a role to play in mitigating the problem of teen mothers and parents that we are currently facing in the country. Exposure to harmful media content and content that lacks consistency on adverse effects of traditional harmful practices such as early pregnancies and marriages seem to be slowing down the much needed behavior change and public awareness to save our children.

Many of the harmful traditional practices that refuse to go away are because the media treat such vices as uniform acts that happen the same way across the country, which is not the case. Many programs on the media, especially access to unregulated digital content is exposing children to experiences, when if they want to try at home, have extreme outcomes.

Matters including teen motherhood and parenthood and the push and pull factors have not been given adequate media attention, thus fail to make to the national agenda. Such matters are violation of the human rights of the children especially the girl child which must be called out by the media, through extensive coverage and national debate.

Data on the number of teen pregnancies following the COVID 19 disruption and what measures have been put in place to get such teen mothers and parents back to the schooling system are worrying. As the country talks about the transition rates-which many sources are rating at over 90 percent- we worry about the related statistics on the teen mothers and drop out rates.

What are the institutional and infrastructural arrangements that have been put in place to accommodate these teen mothers with their children. Because of the biological and social changes in the lives of these teen mothers, what are the national mechanisms on counseling and cushioning them from trauma, stigma and demands that come with parenthood.

The Kenya law outlaws some of these traditional harmful practices, though some communities are still clung on them. The criminal justice system in the country tries albeit with challenges to protect and promote the rights of the teen mothers- however, there lacks in-depth and nuanced reporting on such matters. Globally, journalists often play a crucial role in the fight to protect, defend and promote human rights; telling stories of human rights violations as they happen or investigating and exposing violations of human rights.

All reporters have the potential to use their work as a tool to help hold states and duty bearers accountable for their actions or inactions.  However, journalists there seems to be lack of specialization to human rights reporting for the journalists to enable them to perform this duty diligently. 

“Well trained and focused journalists are critical in educate and inform Kenyans to respect and promote the human rights of the teen mothers, speak truth to power and use their skills to hold public officials accountable in matters such as which plans to re integrate the teen mothers to the schooling system. However, the journalism school curriculum in Kenya does not adequately address content on human rights and social justice” Sammy Muraya from the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) Kenyan program notes.

The campaign for the protection and promotion of human rights including for the girl child in Kenya require not only the political will, but mass social mobilization and changing social norms and mindsets, a role the media can play. Media has the potential to influence the national discourse on the issue, sway public opinion and assist in community mobilization towards change of behavior.” Muraya notes.