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Ensure pregnant candidates transition into higher levels

OPINION
By Kalangi Kiambati | May 13th 2021
St Charles Mutego Educational centre students in preparation for the KCSE exams [David Gichuru, Standard]

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced that 652 candidates sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination in health facilities after giving birth.

This is in addition to the equally worrying number of young girls who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination while pregnant.

Given the disruptions caused by the prolonged closure of schools due to Covid-19, it is likely that many more girls were pregnant at the time of siting the exams. It is also very likely that such girls did not perform as well as their counterparts due to the challenges of sitting a national exam while pregnant or newly delivered.

Child rearing can be a challenge to mature and financially stable of mothers. For a young teenage mother, the physical and emotional challenges can be overwhelming. Given that majority of the girls who gave birth during exams come from poor backgrounds, both the teenage mothers and their babies may be at risk of physical and emotional trauma due to lack of basic child care amenities.

Breastfeeding, for example, requires a proper community and household environment that guarantees a balanced diet and the physical and emotional support to ensure that the baby is exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months after birth. Having given birth while still in school, the young girls may already be the subjects of ridicule from family and peers, and this may compound their challenges and even put them at a higher risk for mental health challenges. 

Authorities should ensure that the young mothers are reassured of their future, part of which is a stable, supportive environment for their babies and a second chance at an education. With the many day secondary schools at the community levels, it is possible for the girls who sat their KCPE to secure places in form one, and with proper support, complete their secondary education. Attending a day school could provide the mothers with the chance to not only complete their secondary education, but also bond with their babies. However, this will depend on the support they get from their teachers and fellow learners.

Similarly, girls who sat their KCSE exam while pregnant should be encouraged to pursue their dreams with the support of families, peers and community. Those who did not qualify for university and college can be encouraged to join vocational training institutes. Families should be sensitised on the need to continue cheering on the mothers by reassuring them of a bright future despite the teenage pregnancy.

More importantly, MPs through the CDF kitty, should give priority to the teenage mothers from poor backgrounds to ensure they get the necessary financial aid to continue with their education.

Dr Kalangi Kiambati, Communications consultant and trainer, Kenyatta University.

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