It was shocking to learn that seven students were not registered by a school in Kakamega for this year’s KCSE exams because they were pregnant.

Student pregnancy is one of the most controversial issues anywhere in the world, and one of the worst nightmares for parents.

Kenya’s high teenage pregnancy rate has resulted in thousands of girls abandoning their education early, stunting the development of half the nation. The high number of cases has been blamed on broken families, rape, peer pressure, inadequate sex education and alcohol and substance abuse.

While the case of the school in Kakamega was highlighted in the media, many cases of teenage pregnancies go unreported because of stigma and fear.

Often enough, this because the girl was either duped or raped by someone she knows, such as a close family friend, male relative, teacher, pastor or neighbor. While some are shocking examples, many teenage pregnancies also arise from much less scandalous situations, and indicate a severe lack of support for young girls across the country.

The National School Health Policy 2009 states thus: “Girls will undergo voluntary medical screening once per term as part of the medical exam for all students.” Pregnancy testing alone may not necessarily reduce teen pregnancy, but the sexual and reproductive health information and services will help ensure health of the adolescent girls are not affected.

In the past, people used to think that teens had no sexual knowledge. But these days, the internet and media have provided sex information to the teens. Parents and teachers should therefore take time with their children to talk about sex instead of assuming that they are taught about sex and abstinence in school.

The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 proposed access to comprehensive sexual education and provision of contraception to teens from ages 10 to 17. It was intended to reduce the high number of teenage pregnancies and engagement in risky sexual behaviors. However, the bill has faced opposition from all corners.

Young girls in Kenya continue to procure unsafe abortions, with 16 per cent of them involving young women below 20 years, according to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance. More grim statistics indicate that 40 per cent of women who die from abortion in the country are young women below the age of 20.

Local communities and schools should work hand in hand to reduce such cases. We need to deal with strong religious and social taboos against teen sex, where youths lack access to contraception and sex education.

Sex education; pupils