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Most adolescents would rather be in school than spend time with parents

By Mercy Adhiambo | July 14th 2021
Boys working together on their studies in a classroom [Courtesy]

Most adolescents prefer being in school to being home with their parents or guardians.

According to research led by the presidential Policy and Strategy Unit (PASU), most adolescents find school a safe haven from domestic violence and emotional abuse at home. They also enjoy the benefits that school comes with; which includes access to food and interaction with peers.

The report, “Promise to keep: Impact of Covid-19 on adolescents in Kenya," points to the need for stakeholders to address several emerging issues, including domestic violence, school dropouts, teenage pregnancies and lost learning momentum.

More than 130,000 teenagers got pregnant, and the government is now looking at ways to accelerate sexual reproductive health programmes that target young people.

Cabinet Secretary for Public Service and Gender Affairs Margaret Kobia said they are in a dilemma on how to effectively approach the subject and who should take charge in driving the conversation. She said there are many conflicting voices, including religious leaders who have always maintained a stance on issues such as the introduction of contraceptives to teenagers.

“There is a need for sexual and reproductive education. How and who will provide remains a dilemma,” she said during the official launch of the report in Nairobi yesterday.

About half the adolescent population battled mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and extreme mood swings. For many of them, the unfavourable conditions at home and uncertainty on whether they shall return to school were the main cause of stress.

Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi said the solution to some of the mental health challenges lay in the scaling up of digital solutions that allow them to have safe platforms to share some of the issues they battle.

She also said they are working with health facilities near schools to find ways in which they can integrate mental health issues into the treatment that adolescents receive. “The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is also looking to finance mental health benefits,” she said.

Education CAS Sara Ruto said the evidence they have gathered in the report will be used to guide policy and changes that will be made in the education sector and that everyone must be on the forefront in ensuring 100 per cent transition of young learners.

Only 20 per cent of learners were able to access remote learning during the pandemic. Maniza Zaman, the UNICEF country representative said the digital divide grew during the pandemic.

Approximately 400,000 adolescents did not return to school. Lack of school fees and teenage pregnancies were listed as among the top factors that caused them to stay home as other learners resumed in January 2021. Of those who did not go back to school, 16 per cent were girls and eight per cent were boys. 

The boda boda business was seen as a favourable trade for boys who had to enter the job market to cushion the economic impact that their parents felt during the pandemic when many of them lost jobs.  

Kobia said the report is unique and important as it factored in the feelings and voices of young people. She said adolescents from different parts of the country were allowed to talk about the issues affecting them and their recommendations will be factored in during the implementation of policies formed as a result of the research.

Ruth Kagia, the deputy chief of staff at the Executive Office of President underscored the importance of the findings by saying: “This has implications not just for adolescents but also for the nation's effectiveness in preparing for the next generation’s future.”

Kobia said comprehensive research should be done to identify specific challenges that boys faced, as there have not been many that focus on young males.

The research was done in line with the recommendations of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), a global platform that seeks to mobilise diverse stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of gender equality.

It was launched last month in Paris under six themes: gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, bodily autonomy and sexual reproductive health, feminist action for climate justice, technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist movements and leadership. [Mercy Adhiambo] 


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