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Alarm as school girls drop out to get babies

EDUCATION
By Jeckonia Otieno | June 25th 2012

By Jeckonia Otieno

When Fedis was in Standard Six, she had everything laid out according to her dreams — finish primary school, go to secondary and then university to pursue a career of her choice.

But temptations were everywhere, she says. A friend in the same class encouraged her to get a boyfriend.

There was no harm, the girl implored Lewa. “You see I have a boyfriend and nothing has happened to me.”

Encouraged, Fedis, now 17, fell into the trap. Her friend ‘organised’ for Fedis to get a boyfriend.

Apparently the boy was in the same class. Soon after, it happened.

Narrates Fedis: “We had a sports competition here in school (in Kaloleni, Kilifi County) so we took the opportunity during the day to vanish and that was the first time we slept together.”

The second time when the two got intimate was at the boy’s home. However, Fedis got worried when she missed her period and she suspected she was pregnant. Without even going to check in a health facility, she just told the boy who offered to buy her drugs so that she could terminate the pregnancy.

Swallow them

“He brought some pills and told me to swallow them when I get home and I just told him I would but before I got home I threw them away,” says Fedis, who lives with her grandmother. She waited for her mother to visit to tell her about the pregnancy.

When the mother came, Fedis discussed the matter with her and the grandmother. The older women told her to carry the pregnancy to full term and assured her of their support.

They then informed the boy’s parents who denied were horrified by the ‘accusation’ saying their son was too young to impregnate any girl. Meanwhile, her uncles were pushing her to go and live with the boy.

After the boy and his family refused to take responsibility, Fedis stayed at her grandparents’ home until she delivered. She took a year off school to care for the baby. She is now back in school and looks forward to excelling in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education at the end of this year.

Although her child is well taken care of and she has another chance to complete her education, Fedis says she finds the shadows from her past haunting her every day. Her age mates, especially girls, shun her and see her as an outcast and avoid her.

She confesses, “Even the friend who introduced me to this boy abandoned me yet she was the one who encouraged me to have a boyfriend like her.”

The situation like Fedis’ is alarmingly common around the country. Many girls are forced to drop out of school because of pregnancy.

In many cases, the girls are ignorant of the consequences of casual sex and lack information about sexual relationships and how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies as well as diseases.

Raymond Kiti, a teacher in a school in Kaloleni says school girls getting pregnant is widespread both in primary and secondary schools. He blames the local video dens where they watch videos including pornography.

“When they leave the place, each person carries his mate and they can then engage in sex before they finally go home,” says Kiti. 

Also blamed is the weekly market day at Mwembe Kati where young lovers meet every Thursday.

Anderson Chigulu of Chonyi Childright Movement Action says the market is encouraging absenteeism as many children skip school on Thursday to go to the market.

Poverty contributes to early sexual engagements. Some girls are easily enticed by older men with money who promise them marriage or a good life.

Parenting has also been blamed for the problem. Some parents, either because they are illiterate or don’t know better, don’t bother to find out what their children are up to in school or what they do after, says Douglas Muchiri of World Starts With Me.

Curbing pregnancies

“Some parents even encourage their children to get married early so that they can earn bridewealth,” states Muchiri.

Muchiri, who is also a teacher at Dr Krapf High School in Rabai, notes that poverty alleviation might just be the first step in curbing teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Just like in many other parts of Kenya, the boda boda menace is also a factor; the riders are accused of luring school girls with free rides and cheap gifts. They sometimes marry them for a short period before kicking them out for another girl.

Ending cultural activities such as night dances during weddings and funerals could also help fight the menace, locals say. These dances, says Lilian Hassan, a local, send wrong messages to young people. They see their parents dance and leave with partners who are not their spouses for love-making.

“What moral authority would a parent have to tell a child to stop sleeping around if the child sees the parent doing the same?” wonders Hassan.

Parents, she says, must take the fight against the menace seriously. They should start by finding out from their children how they can afford some things and demand that such goods are returned to the sender.

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