CS Aisha Jumwa slams Governor Kenneth Lusaka over teen pregnancy ban proposal

Gender, Culture, Arts and Heritage CS Aisha Jumwa.[Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, Arts, and Heritage, Aisha Jumwa, has criticised a remark by Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka suggesting that pregnant teens should be prohibited from resuming their studies.
Governor Lusaka's proposal, made on Sunday, sparked outrage as he claimed it would be an effective way to curb the alarming increase in teenage pregnancies across the country.
In response on Monday, January 15, CS Jumwa condemned the statement, emphasising that every child, regardless of their circumstances, has an inherent right to an education free from discrimination.
"I would like to unequivocally condemn the sentiments expressed by the Governor of Bungoma," Jumwa stated. "As a leader, a parent, and a figure of influence, Governor Lusaka should understand that government policies discriminating against girls based on pregnancy or marital status blatantly violate international and regional human rights laws, as well as the Kenyan Constitution 2010."
CS Jumwa further highlighted the significance of equitable education in empowering all children, particularly young mothers, to pursue their dreams and aspirations without fear of discrimination or actions that could potentially harm their babies.
She pointed to the government's existing re-entry policy, designed to facilitate learners who drop out of school to rejoin and complete their education.
"Pregnant learners are entitled to unconditional re-admission to the same class or grade they were in before leaving for childbirth," Jumwa explained. "Additionally, if they choose to transfer to another school, they will be supported by the school principal and Sub-County Director of Education to secure admission."
However, Jumwa noted that learners who attain the age of 18 years may be advised to enroll in Adult and Continuing Education institutions.
Governor Lusaka's proposal stemmed from a recent incident at St Aquinas Chesikaki Secondary School in Mt Elgon, where 54 female students were discovered pregnant.
"The current situation where teen girls can return to school even while pregnant is contributing to the normalization of this issue," Lusaka argued.
He attributed poverty and lack of access to sanitary products as major factors driving teenage pregnancy among young girls.
CS Jumwa countered Lusaka's claims, stating that identifying the root causes should have prompted him to take the initiative in supporting the girls rather than proposing discriminatory measures.
"The governor's admission of these challenges should have catalyzed for him to implement sustainable support systems, such as providing sanitary pads to girls in his county and establishing mechanisms to identify, support, and empower girls from underprivileged backgrounds," Jumwa emphasised.
CS Jumwa concluded by reiterating the importance of ensuring a second chance at education for all learners, regardless of their circumstances, to enable them to fulfill their dreams and contribute meaningfully to society.
The clash between CS Jumwa and Governor Lusaka highlights the ongoing debate in Kenya surrounding effective approaches to tackling the complex issue of teenage pregnancy while upholding the fundamental right to education for all girls.

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