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Home / Parenting

Many adolescents introduced to drugs, sex during lockdown - report

 Access and use of smartphones afforded adolescents time to interact and form relationships with the opposite gender (Shutterstock)

Your son or daughter may have had sex during the Covid-19 prolonged closure of schools. A shocking government report reveals that most school-going boys and girls had their sexual encounter because their parents did not give them attention at home.

And in other cases, some of the teenagers were introduced to drugs and alcohol, which emboldened them to engage in sex when schools were shut for about nine months to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The survey conducted by Presidential Policy and Strategy Unit states that the long stay at home led to uncontrolled feeding that increased the physical growth of the girls, making them confident to engage in sexual relationships.

Access and use of mobile phones and the internet afforded adolescents time to interact and form relationships with the opposite gender, while others had unrestricted access to indulge in activities they would not have in school.

In most homes, parents did not regulate use of mobile phones and the internet, while in other cases, children used their parents’ phones to communicate with boyfriends and girlfriends, who they met secretly for sex.

And with too much time in their hands, the report says that a number of school-going girls had sex to kill boredom at home and also as a form of leisure. In other instances, peer pressure led to sexual encounters among the school-going girls.

Shocking revelations

Some of the revelations made by teenage girls are shocking and expose serious lapses in parenting.

“When some girls see their friends looking nice, they also want the same and in the process, they are shown how to get money... and in the process she gets pregnant,” said a 17-year-old adolescent girl in Kilifi. Another 17-year-old gild in Kisumu said: “People have been idling a lot. They may attend parties, drink alcohol, and use drugs, and in the process have sex, and get pregnant.”

In Kajiado, a teenager said: “We had time to plan meetings because we had mobile phones. We could even talk when parents were there and plan how to meet secretly with the parent having very little control over that.”

In Wajir, a girl said: “The girls are young and naïve and they are taken advantage of. Peer pressure or bad company can also put them at risk of getting pregnant.” In Nairobi, a 17-year-old boy said: “Soap operas in media and TV programmes promoted sexual activity. You find that people are home making it easy to access pornographic sites. Cybercafés are also there and pornography is easy to get.”

And when schools opened in January after the prolonged closure, the report says at least 260,000 girls did not report, having borne children or been married. The report says at least 160,000 girls were married when schools closed.

Another 100,000 girls were plunged into motherhood after they were impregnated during the nine months’ schools closure. The girls affected were mostly aged between 15 and 19.

For boys, some 125,000 of them did not report back to school after reopening early this year. The majority of the boys who did not return to school cited lack of school fees.

 Your teenage child may have had a lot of sex during lockdown (Shutterstock)

Family and social support

“Almost all girls who got pregnant during the schools’ closure period said their pregnancies were not planned and expressed apprehension about the future of their education. Those who lacked family and social support during pregnancy faced greater social and mental challenges,” read the report.

Nearly all respondents reported cases of teenage pregnancy in their communities, especially during the period of school closure.

“The respondents identified factors that fostered sexual activities as idleness, lack of money in households, peer pressure, exposure to violence, and difficulty in accessing family planning services,” read the report.

Overall, about 385,000 boys and girls did not reopen school in January. The report, titled “Impact of Covid-19 on Adolescents”, was conducted between June 2020 and February 2021.

The data highlighted that pregnancy among girls aged 10 to 19 years remained a problem.

“The highest percentage of girls who were pregnant or recently had a baby was in Kisumu (13 per cent), followed by Kilifi and Nairobi. In Wajir County, 9 per cent of girls were pregnant or recently had a baby, all of whom were married,” reads the report.

The report says several respondents described pregnant adolescent girls as feeling “ashamed” and “uncomfortable” around their peers, while most were likely to discontinue their studies or fail to concentrate in class.

Ruth Kagia, Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the President, under whose supervision the survey was done, said the findings called for urgent action. “Sobering statistics presented in this report of school dropout and teenage pregnancies, and lost learning momentum indicate an urgent need for bold corrective action to prevent this cohort from becoming a lost generation,” said Ms Kagia.

She said when Covid-19 struck, Kenyans did not realise the extent of the impact it would have on the entire spectrum of lives and especially for adolescents. “Adolescence is a turbulent period for young people and their families and during this period, young people go through major physical and psychosocial changes, as they transition from childhood to adulthood and develop a sense of self, seek independence and begin to define what they want to do with their lives,” said Kagia.

Overall, the report lists lack of money, prolonged school closure, peer pressure, lack of access to family planning as some of the reasons the girls got pregnant. “The lack of money to procure sanitary pads, food, clothes, and other personal needs was mentioned by most respondents – in both urban and rural areas – as contributing to teenage pregnancies,” reads the report.

Girls interviewed said they used to get sanitary towels in schools. But with schools closed, some of them had sex to get the pads.

Exposed to platforms

Kagia said during the prolonged school closure, young people no longer had a safe school environment and were exposed to platforms to socialise, learn and explore their identity.

“As parents and guardians faced unemployment, adolescents, many of whom were already living in resource-constrained environments, experienced increased economic stress,” said Kagia.

She said many children were exposed to emotional, physical, and sexual violence as others became vulnerable to personal and social risks such as alcohol and drug abuse as well as teenage pregnancy.

“When the parent does not have money to buy you clothes or the food becomes less, you are forced to go and look for your own,” said a 19-year-old adolescent girl in Nairobi.

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