Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
Driving along the dilapidated Kilifi-Sokoke-Ganze road, one cannot help noticing the yawning chasm between the poor and the rich.
And for those on the dark side of this divide, poverty stalks them— and have been condemned to live under its cruel shadow that drives them to the edge of existence.
It is the bumpy and dusty road that invites any first-time visitor to Vilwakwe area in Ganze constituency, Kilifi county, which has gained notoriety for teenage pregnancy.
Here, we meet Mary*, a 15-year-old mother of three. Her case epitomises the epidemic of adolescent pregnancy, a consequence of poverty that has crashed the future of many a girlchild.
She has just finished bathing her youngest son, Angel, who is four months old. The rags she uses as napkins to wrap her baby expose the level of poverty they are trapped in.
Mary, now resigned to her fate, was only 13 and in Class Seven when she first fell pregnant in 2014. She went on to deliver twins.
The babies’ father, she says, was a man whom she met when she was a pupil at Kachoroni Boarding Primary School. And the Sh200 the man gifted her, kicked off a two- month relationship that ended in pregnancy.
“Shortly afterwards I fell sick and when I was taken to hospital, it was confirmed I was three months pregnant with twins,” she recalls.
On getting the news of her pregnancy, the man vanished into thin air— and never to be seen or heard of, leaving Mary to shoulder the burden of the brief encounter.
She dropped out of school after giving birth to her twin boys but later joined another school where she sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam and scored 285 marks.
As if dogged by fate, the deadbeat dad of her twin resurfaced and warmed his way back into life as she prepared to join secondary school in December 2017.
“He used the twins to get back into my life, promising to take care of me and the children,” she says and the misfortune struck again: “I became pregnant again, and the man vanished again”.
Mary’s mother says reporting the man who impregnated her daughter to the authorities has not borne much fruit.
“We tried to report the matter to our chief and to the chief of the village where the man comes from but the two took us round in cycles,” says the woman.
Near Kadzandani Primary School, we meet 15-year-old Hawa*. Although she did her KCPE exam this year and scored 269 marks, she is seven months pregnant. She says a 25-year-old cleric is responsible for her pregnancy.
“He would persuade me to remain behind after madrassa. I declined his sexual advances at first but he persisted and I ended up giving in,” she recalls.
Hawa says the man even promised to marry her after she completed school. “He promised to marry me after school and this sound good to me,” she said.
Two months later, she found out that she was pregnant. To her shock, her cleric boyfriend also vanished into thin air after learning about her condition.
Her father, a chairman of the school committee, says the news of his daughter’s situation shocked him as he had entrusted the cleric with his child and it never occurred to him that he was capable of taking advantage of her.
“We reported the matter at the Ganze Police Post and recorded a statement, but police are yet to arrest the suspect,” he says. One of Hawa’s classmates delivered a baby before sitting her KCPE exam.
At Tsangalaweni, 16-year-old Grace* is nursing a two-month-old child. Like Hawa, Grace reportedly fell prey to an unlikely predator — a pastor.
She believes her pregnancy impacted negatively on her KCPE exam in which she scored 219 marks.
In Ganze township, 17-year-old Josphine* is a form one student at Ganze Girls Secondary but she is a mother of one. She fell pregnant in August last year while she was in class eight after spending two weeks at a man’s house.
Josphine sat her KCPE while pregnant but managed 326 marks. She gave birth to a baby girl in March while in form one.
Sauti ya Wanawake Ganze sub-county chairperson Judith Uchi says majority of the teenage pregnancies are not reported to the authorities for action.
“We have 68 unreported cases while 64 suspects who have been reported yet they are still walking free,” she says, adding that at least 93 leaners this year sat their national exams while pregnant.
Uchi says since 2013, Ganze has recorded 625 cases of teenage pregnancies, with 200 cases having been thrown out of court. *Names have been changed to protect the identities of the minors