Lusaka’s view contradicts EAC health initiative

Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka

Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka recently called for the exclusion of pregnant teens from resuming their studies, citing the need to act as a deterrent to prevent further teenage pregnancies in the county.

While his concern for addressing the crisis is valid, his proposed solution contradicts the regional commitment to adolescent reproductive health and education, as outlined in the EAC SRH Bill 2021.

Mr Lusaka’s assertion that allowing pregnant girls to return to school is seen as a non-issue undermines the significant strides made in recognising and protecting the rights of young mothers. The EAC SRH Bill 2021, specifically in Article 12 on the continuation of education after pregnancy, emphasises the importance of providing adolescent girls and young women with the opportunity to continue their education after childbirth. It states: “An adolescent girl or young woman who becomes pregnant, before completing her education, shall be given the opportunity with appropriate facilities, within a reasonable period after delivery, to continue with her education.”

This progressive legislation reflects an understanding that education is a fundamental right and an essential tool for breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering these young mothers to build a better future for themselves and their children.

The governor’s suggestion not only overlooks the legal framework set by the East African Community but also fails to address the root causes of teenage pregnancies.

Poverty, as rightly identified by Lusaka, is a significant contributor to the issue, nonetheless, it is crucial to address the root causes comprehensively, including inadequate sex education, limited access to contraceptives, and societal norms that stigmatize reproductive health discussions.

Additionally, excluding pregnant girls from school does not address the core problems; instead, it perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage and limits the potential for positive change. Mr Lusaka’s call for a ban on pregnant teens returning to school also disregards the disproportionate impact on girls, placing the burden solely on them and ignoring the responsibilities of the male counterparts involved.

His acknowledgment of the lack of sanitary pads, and incest cases due to cramped living conditions is troubling, yet the focus on restricting girls’ education is a misdirected solution. Instead, the focus should be on implementing holistic solutions that encompass comprehensive sex education, access to contraceptives, and addressing economic disparities.

Mercy Mwendwa and Doris Kathia, Nairobi