By Lucianne Limo
This is the story that every parent dreads: Teenagers are having sex much earlier, and some experiment with different partners in spite of the widespread knowledge about HIV and Aids.
The reality of this is that you are likely to become a grandparent before you turn 40.
Four of 10 girls admitted having sex before their 19th birthday while one of two boys reported having sex by the same age.
About 60 to 70 per cent of young people admitted to having had sex and some said they have had sexual intercourse, some reporting sex with six partners within the six months of the study.
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Half of the girls interviewed said they exchanged sex for gifts or money, if just a paltry Sh50 to buy cell phone airtime or a plate of chips.
And those who believe the future lies with the youth may have to modify their judgement as they, too, are learning all the bad habits from adults: sexual violence was reported by one of every 20 young men between age 12 and 19 years, while a similar margin of girls in the same age bracket reported submitting to sex under duress.
Naturally, girls from poor backgrounds are more susceptible to such manipulations, than those from wealthier backgrounds. But the young suffer collectively in terms of training, which in turn diminishes prospects for jobs, with some resorting to crime.
As a consequence, jails are breaking at the seams with young people who comprise 60 per cent of the national population.
These grim facts are contained in a report, Reproductive Health and HIV/Aids: The Status of Young People in Kenya, which was launched on Tuesday by the non-governmental organisation, Centre for Study of Adolescents (CSA) at a Nairobi hotel.
Sex before 20
The study further shows that 15 per cent of girls and 31 per cent of boys have had sex by age 15.
Although 80 per cent of the youth expressed their wish not to engage in sex until marriage, the finding contradicted their intention to delay sexual intercourse.
"Young women from poor backgrounds are easily enticed with such basic stuff because that is the only way they can fend for themselves," said CSA executive director Rosemarie Muganda.
The data collected in 145 schools in Nyanza, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Central Province last year indicated that most young people have had sex by age 20.
The survey further shows that seven of 10 young women and eight of 10 young men have had sex by age 20.
Asked whether they use condoms, the youth admitted that whereas condom use may be unpleasant, it was a wise choice if one were to engage in sex.
The report puts parents on the spot as most young people said they were not comfortable talking about sex with them.
Only about three of 10 boys indicate willingness to discuss issues of sexuality with parents and preferred friends as opposed to five of 10 girls who say they talk to their parents.
The report contradicted the assumption that sexual violence occurs in older generation as one in 20 youth reported forcing girls to have sex with them.
"Boys still believe they have sexual power over women and do not believe when a woman says no to sex she means no," observed Muganda.
The reports indicates an increase in number of youths in schools with the introduction of Free Primary Education with the Secondary School Gross Enrolment ratio now at 29.8 per cent up from 27.5 per cent in 2001. But challenges arising from their reproductive health have kept a significant number of youth out of school.
Cases of girls falling pregnant are rising now with teachers being blamed for the cases.
The report, however, indicates that even young men are contributing to this phenomenon. About one in 20 boys indicated having made a girl pregnant.
About half (47 per cent) of young people have either had a child, are pregnant, or have been pregnant and had an abortion by age 20.
The chairman of Kenya National Parents Association Musau Ndunda described the findings as shocking. He blamed parents for failing to guide their children through their formative stage.
"Parents have failed in bringing up their children. They do not have time to monitor their children and use schools as dumping grounds," he said.
He proposed that the Government should come up with a law that reverses the age of adults from 18 year to 28 years.
He regretted that poor parenting and lack of role models has led to young women falling pregnant at tender age.
The report recommended that Government increase its resources allocation for sexual reproductive health for young people.
The report, which noted that young people were shy in seeking medical help, proposes increased health provisions for the youth like treatment for sexual transmitted disease, contraceptive and condoms.
The CSA and the World Population Foundation began the programme aimed at sensitising schools on their sexuality dubbed The World Starts With Me in 2005.
The World Starts With Me Programme is a comprehensive school-based sexuality, life skills and HIV/Aids education programme that has already trained 13,000 students.