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Young mothers beat stigma, return to school

By | Apr 4th 2012 | 3 min read

By Job Weru

Three years ago, Florensia Naitora (not her real name), was at home after a long day at Kiwanja Ndege Primary School in Laikipia North District, when her father kicked the door open.

In a drunken stupor, the elderly man staggered to his usual seat ¨C near the fireplace ¨C as Naitora watched him in despair.

The man had come from the nearby shopping centre in Doldol, where he usually went for traditional Maasai brew.

Then, he uttered words that left the 16-year-old startled.

"I have to get dowry before I die," he said. He meant he would marry off the girl as soon as possible, as he was ailing.

The sixth born in a family of nine could do nothing but accept her fate.

She would be married in exchange for a few heads of cattle to be paid as dowry, just as had happened to her elder sisters.

"After a week, I was withdrawn from school and my protests did not help. He made my life hard, since he even threatened to curse me if I went against his wish," she said last week.

After five months in marriage, she was pregnant.

While still in marriage, Naitore contemplated running away and resume school, but the fear of her father¡¯s curse haunted her.

But lady luck came calling when her former head teacher, Ms Amina Ismael traced her whereabouts and rescued her.

"After a whole year in marriage, I had to give birth before I could resume school," she said.

The girl is now in Standard eight and her education and daily upkeep is catered for by One More Day for Children (OMDC), an organisation that offers sponsorship to children rescued from early marriages,

Female Genital Mutilation, child labour and other forms of child abuse.

Naitore¡¯s three-year-old son lives with her mother at Mumonyot area in Laikipia North, about seven kilometres from Doldol where she is in a boarding school.

Abusive marriages

"I miss being with my child, but my dream is always to learn," she said. A similar fate has befallen children rescued from early, abusive marriages. Although it pains their hearts, they have resolved to stay away from their own children for the sake of education.

For Naitore, she has decided to fight stigma attached to young mothers in school and shun other distractions that avert her attention in class, noting that she is happy that her mother supports her.

A Czech national, Ms Beatric Trojanova, sponsors her and treats her like her own daughter.

"I¡¯m grateful to her. She pays my fees and provides uniforms, books and even food for my child," she said happily.

Recently, Trojanova transferred Naitore from a local public school to a boarding-private institution in the area.

Naitore¡¯s case is just a drop in an ocean where girls are withdrawn from school and subjected to retrogressions that undermine their rights. Tens of girls have been withdrawn from school and married off.

Others have shed off public ridicule after falling pregnant and sought re-admission, and are now juggling between motherhood and lessons.

Never punished

At the same time, several cases have been reported where men defile the children, but despite the cases being reported to police, the criminal go underground and are never punished for the crimes.

A recent case was reported in Chumvi area in Laikipia East district, where a man, said to be a brother to a local assistant chief, allegedly defiled a blind girl and impregnated her.

The girl, who was a form one student at St Lucy School for the Visually Impaired in Egoji-Meru, was withdrawn from school on June last year after medical checks proved she was pregnant. She is yet to join school-despite her willingness.

However, despite the matter being reported to the police, the suspect has not been arrested, months after the girl gave birth.

Resumed learning

"My appeal is that I get a sponsor to pay for my fees, since I want to learn and become a teacher. I want to inspire my fellow girls," she told The Standard.

Ms Hellen Gathogo, the Vice President of OMDC Foundation said 32 girls under the sponsorship were rescued from early marriages and have resumed learning.

The young mothers are admitted to boarding schools, while their children stay with their grandparents or are taken to rescue centres.

Last year, seven girls from Il¡¯Polei Primary and the neighbouring Il¡¯Polei Secondary School dropped out of school due to pregnancies.


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