The rate of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Kenya is 18 per cent. That means one in five high school students aged 15-19 have either had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child. The rate rapidly rises with age from three per cent among girls aged 15 to 40 per cent for 19-year-olds.
There are a number of reasons for the increasing number of teenage pregnancies. One is a lack of awareness of sexual and reproductive health. Parents are a child’s first teachers. They are supposed to teach their children about sexual activities and health. But they don’t.
They are reserved and give the impression that sex education is taboo. They overlook the fact that adolescents must be educated for them to be aware of the risks and repercussions of sexual activity.
The second factor is social practices like child marriage. An elderly man will marry an adolescent girl and want children with her. The girl will likely contract HIV/Aids from the man. Being HIV-positive and pregnant may result in the birth of a child with the deadly virus.
The third is poverty. The family is poor, and the adolescent girl requires sanitary pads, which the government ought to provide but doesn’t. But she can buy the towels if her boyfriend gives her the money. She will participate in sexual activity with her boyfriend, which may lead to pregnancy. The search for sanitary pads ends in pregnancy and the boyfriend probably abandoning her.
The last is lack of education. At school, the teachers teach about reproductive health and sexual activity. If the teenage girl doesn’t go to school and the parents don’t take the initiative to educate her, she is likely to engage in sexual activity and may suffer the consequences.
Education is crucial and there are public schools for parents who can’t afford to pay school fees for their children. A child who goes to school will be educated about the consequences of engaging in unsafe premature sex.
Ms Wairimu is a journalism and digital media student at KCA University. [email protected].