School offers a home and education to teen mums, their babies

Teenage Mothers

Teenage Mothers carry their children at the Prestige Teenage Mothers' School in Subukia in March, 2022

Photo credit: Steve Njuguna | Nation Media Group

Everyone here is a child, just that some children became early mothers during the Covid-19 period.

The mothers needed to continue with their education while also taking care of their infants without separating them. They thus found a safe haven at Prestige Teenage Mothers School in Munanda village on the outskirts of Subukia town.

We find some of the mothers sitting across from each and chatting as some of the babies lie on a mattress at an open field either sleeping or simply gazing at their new environment.

“This is home to 50 teenage mothers who became pregnant at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Principal Gladys Kemunto.

The girls come from as far away as Laikipia, Baringo and Narok counties. They have an opportunity to continue with their education for free. Caregivers also look after their babies while they are in class.

The school, Ms Kemunto said, hired caregivers and a nurse, who look after the welfare of both the girls and their babies.

The principal said the mothers are allowed 15 minutes to breastfeed their children at every break before they continue with the next lesson.

The school’s objective is to provide special services for the student mothers so that they can continue with their education without being separated from their children. The students study under the same curriculum as the students in other schools, and as stipulated by the Ministry of Education.

Eligible girls apply to be taken in and those who qualify are subjected to an interview before they are admitted. The admission forms must be signed by the chief, the church and the school principal or headteacher of the school the girl attended previously.

Teenage Mothers

Teenage mothers listening to a teacher in class at the Prestige Teenage Mothers' School in March, 2022

Photo credit: Steve Njuguna | Nation Media Group

Other girls are referred to the school through community organizations and community policing groups, but even so, must do an interview. 

"We give new hope to the girls who had dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancies,” Ms Kemunto said.

"And since most of the learners had expressed their willingness to continue with their education despite their challenges we decided to accommodate them."

With the help of well-wishers, she said, the young mothers will bring up their children while continuing their studies. 

“In an attempt to end the stigma against girls who fall pregnant in their teen years, Prestige School offers an inspiration to change societal norms,” she said. 

“The best part of bringing these young mothers together is that they experience the same challenges and hence are able to tackle them together and still enjoy their lives.”

The young mothers said that learning together gives them the morale to continue pursuing their dreams.

"If I had gone back to a conventional school after giving birth, I would have dropped out by now because I would have been ridiculed by other learners,” said one mother.

“But learning with my fellow mothers here gives me the optimism to keep on pursuing my dreams."

She noted that stigma had hindered many young mothers from going back to their previous schools after giving birth.

"Here, we are able to cope and share life experiences as all of us are undergoing similar challenges. We also motivate one another,” she added.

Though sometimes she regrets ever getting pregnant, she said, she has found a place to call home where she can still pursue her dreams while looking after her baby.

Area Assistant Chief Catherine Nuthu praised the school, saying it offers another chance for the teenagers.

"The programme offers the young mothers hope to recollect themselves after falling victim to early or teenage pregnancies," she said, warning individuals who engage in sexual activities with underage girls that the law will catch up with them.