Teachers and boda boda riders to blame for early pregnancy cases

Mukumu Girls Secondary School students hire a boda boda in Kakamega town on their way back to school. Teachers and boda boda operators have been accused of being behind the majority of teenage pregnancies. [Photo: Benjamin Sakwa/Standard]

Teachers and boda boda riders to blame for early pregnancy cases main reason for school drop-outs and early marriages," reads the 2015 National Adolescent and Youth preliminary report released yesterday.

Unsafe sexual behaviour, drug abuse, poverty and parental negligence are cited as some of the major factors that have led to the high number of early pregnancies among school going children.

The report also shows that teenagers are having sex at an early age, with about a third having sex before 15 years. It indicates that 12 per cent of young women and 21 per cent of young men aged between 15 and 24 had their first sexual intercourse before age 15.

And 47 per cent of young women and 55 per cent of young men aged between 18 and 24 had their sexual encounter before age 18. It adds that 15 per cent of young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are already mothers and three per cent are pregnant with their first child.

The survey also found that teenage pregnancies are linked to level of education. A majority of teenage mothers aged between 15 and 19 (36 per cent) who are either mothers or pregnant with their first child have only completed primary school.

A slightly lower number (33 per cent) are mothers without any education at all, and even fewer (19 per cent) got pregnant before they completed primary education. Only 12 per cent have secondary education.

Inadequate sexual reproductive health information is another reason that has escalated underage pregnancy, which has also been pointed out as a major cause of high maternal mortality rates.

"Teenage mothers face a greater risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. The young mothers are prone to abort, which can also lead to death. They are also likely to suffer from poor mental and general health, considering the stress they undergo," says the report.

According to the National Council for Population Development, increasing the provision of adolescent and youth-friendly reproductive health information and services and ensuring such programmes reach more youth, including those with special needs, will lead to reduction of teenage pregnancies.

Other recommendations to reduce the numbers of teen pregnancies is promoting age-appropriate sex education in schools and increasing community engagement.

Older men are the main perpetrators of gender violence, prevalent in most regions except Nairobi and parts of the North Rift.

"Young girls walking to and from school, older girls seeking employment and disabled girls and women are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse," the report explained.

In June 2013, more than 18 girls at Chepkurkur Primary School in Mt Elgon, Bungoma County, were pregnant.