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Time bomb that is Kilifi teenage pregnancies

More than 665 pupils from Ganze constituency alone were reported expectant between 2013 and 2017

Walker Mwandoto

Teenage pregnancy cases are frustrating access to education in some counties including Baringo, Narok, Kilifi, Meru, Busia, Migori, Nairobi and Homa Bay counties.

Ministry of Education reports show the problem is prevalent in arid and semi-arid counties with Narok and Kilifi having the highest number of teenage pregnancies. Kilifi County Education Officer Moses Karati says he is waiting for his sub-county education directors to submit their final reports on the problem. “My office has received reports of several cases but I am yet to get a briefing from my officers in the sub-counties,” Karati said.

However, Sauti Ya Wanawake (SYW) Ganze branch chairperson Judith Uchi says more than 100 candidates have either sat the national examinations while pregnant or gave birth before or during the examinations this year. She said  665 teenage pregnancy cases drawn from different primary schools in Ganze constituency alone have been reported between 2013 and 2017.

Fact-finding tour

“This year, 265 teenage pregnancies have been reported between June and October. Todate, candidates who have sat KCPE exams while pregnant and who have delivered are 68,” she said.  Speaking at Kikwanguloni village in Ganze during a fact-finding tour a fortnight ago, the women’s lobby group boss said perpetrators of such cases include clerics, teachers. boda-boda operators and fellow boy students.  She accused parents and police officers of colluding with the main perpetrators to water down the cases whenever reported to them.

During the tour, a 15-year-old girl, who is five months expectant, told Mama Uchi that she had been impregnated by a religious leader at Kadzandani village. “One day he asked me to remain behind after madrassa classes,” she said.

The girl wanted to be a teacher before she got pregnant. “When I realised I was expecting,  I informed the mosque official who told me to carry the child to term. I then told my parents who counselled me until I sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Kadzandani Primary,” she said.

Her father said he reported the matter at Bamba Police Station so that action could be taken against the religious leader who is now said to be on the run. The father of five said the girl will continue with education but wants justice for the child.

Elizabeth Kahindi, 16, also sat KCPE while five months pregnant at Maryani Primary School. She claims the father of her baby ran away from the village three days after she told him she was expectant. The fifth born said her teachers supported her and made sure she sat the exam. “After finishing my last KCPE paper, I told my parents. The head teacher advised them to report the matter to the area chief,” she said.

Everline Wasi, 17 and of Kachororoni Primary School delivered a baby girl a month before sitting for her KCPE. A love affair with a fellow pupil in Class Seven at Rare Primary School resulted in the mess. Everline is determined to pass KCPE exam, join secondary school and pursue a medical career.

More than 100 girls who sat this year’s KCPE examination in various primary schools in Kilifi county are pregnant. The vice has been blamed largely on idle youth — boda-boda operators and palm wine tappers who entice young girls with money.

Kilifi county Woman’s Representative Gertrude Mbeyu, says the majority of the girls are aged between 14 and 17. They are coerced into sex with men to get money to buy sanitary towels due to poverty. Speaking during the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Karisa Maitha Stadium, Mbeyu said: “In Kibarani ward where I come from, 26 girls due to sit KCPE are pregnant at Konjora and 15 at Fumbini Primary schools”.

She attributed the problem to disco-matanga (funeral dances) held at funeral ceremonies in the area and called on police and area chiefs to ensure that children who attend such events are arrested and their parents prosecuted.

Disco matangas

In Kaloleni constituency, area Deputy County Commission Paul Rotich says about 20 schoolgirls from various learning institutions, including some in national secondary schools, are pregnant. “It is really a shame to the parents of the girls and the local leaders led by their MP Paul Katana who has given them bursaries from the CDF kitty for their education,” Rotich said.

In Magarini constituency, the area Deputy County Commissioner Samuel Lokoriyo says about 20 girls in different schools were also reported pregnant last month. “This problem of children attending matanga discos will not end unless parents and the local communities heed the call by the government to stop the discos,” he said.

Kilifi South MP Ken Chonga revealed that about 18 schools girls in Chonyi have been impregnated at Mubuyuni, Vwevwesi and Kolongoni and neighbouring primary schools. He asked the police and chiefs in the area to help address the problem by arresting those engaging in sex with minors.

Chonga said a number of girls suffer in silence due to poor parental guidance and lack of interest to further their education. “Some parents even allow their daughters to engage in sex for cash because of poverty,” he said.

FGM practice

He also called on the county and national governments and non-governmental organisations operating in Kilifi county to be at the forefront in enlightening the public on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] and the importance of educating girls.

Women leaders also blame FGM practised by the local communities for the pregnancies. Apparently, the underage girls start to indulge in sex or get married off as soon as they are circumcised. The women leaders have urged education stakeholders, political and religious leaders to strengthen the fight for empowerment of women and the girl-child education in the region.

The shocking numbers of teenage pregnancies correspond with the recent research findings by the Mombasa-based human rights organisation Haki Africa which revealed that almost half of the girls in urban areas at the Coast get pregnant at a tender age.

A report from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) shows that Kisumu, Kakamega and Kilifi counties lead in teenage pregnancies. Most women also do not have access to contraceptives despite awareness standing at over 95 per cent.

Education Cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed stated that the State is concerned that a high number of candidates became mothers during the three days of KCPE exams. “If this is happening all year round, then the country could be facing a crisis. I have asked Quality Assurance and Standards directorate to work with relevant departments to investigate the
extent of this situation and give me a report for further action,” she added.

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