Special schools offer hope to teenage mothers
What you need to know:
- Greenland Girls School in Kajiado County has enrolled 90 young mothers aged 13-21.
- Here, they get all the support they need to achieve their academic dreams
Serah (not her real name) got pregnant on her 13th birthday. She was in Standard Seven at a public primary school in Meru County. Her boyfriend, who forced her into sex, was in Form Three.
For her love of education, she decided to remain in school until she delivered in July 2014.
She was in Standard Eight at the time and the months before her delivery were distressing. Teachers mocked her as her fellow pupils badmouthed her.
“A female teacher could call me “wewe mama” (loosely translated as ‘hey, you woman’)’ or I could pass by the teachers and hear them say, ‘that one has a baby,” Serah told the Nation in an interview yesterday.
Her story mirrors those of hundreds of girls who get pregnant while still in school. In the past year, more than 328,000 girls got pregnant, according to data from the Health ministry.
Many go through psychological torture which to a great extent is unfortunately perpetrated by adults entrusted to protect them.
The Education ministry has instructed teachers to allow the girls stay in school and give them all the support they need to achieve their academic dreams.
But some, interviews with the Nation reveal, are doing the exact opposite.
“One time, a new teacher called me to ask how I got pregnant and that really hurt me.”
Driven by the zeal to complete her primary school education and later specialise in cosmetology, Serah persevered.
But her performance tanked from an average score of 300 and when she sat her Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education, she only managed 218 marks.
Encouraging teenage pregnancies
She joined a nearby private boarding secondary school but her fellow students continued the mental torture.
“Girls could come to see my stretch marks. Others could ask me about my child. The worst was when some could avoid interacting with me, telling me they don’t socialise with mothers.”
In 2016, she dropped out at Form Two and stayed out of school for four years, her yearning for an education still intact.
In March this year, Serah finally enrolled in a school for teen mothers where she is happy to study with other girls who “understand her” and teachers “who respect and value her”.
Although the Education ministry directed that pregnant girls and teen mothers continue with their education, some teachers are yet to fully embrace the guidelines.
Yesterday, some of the teachers asked the government to change the policy, saying it encouraged teenage pregnancies.
Chairperson of Tigania West sub-County Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Martha Githinji said teachers lose the moral authority to speak against teen pregnancies when they have pregnant girls in schools.
“We are only asking that the government rethink that policy. They can be kept at home and when they deliver, they can come back to school so that we can also protect the morality of the society because when we do not correct that, they keep on repeating it,” she said.
Ms Githinji, who is the principal Mituntu Girls’ Secondary School, complained that principals were uncomfortable giving lessons on teen pregnancies in the presence of such girls.
Her comments were supported by Tigania West MP John Mutunga. “It is not good for teachers to have students who have children in school; a school is not a maternity ward or clinic,” he said.
Schools for teenage mothers
Dr Mutunga, who is also a member of the National Assembly’s Education committee, also criticised the government policy that allows students who desert schools to sit national exams despite them being away for long. “How can you allow students who have not been attending classes to sit exams?” he posed.
However, the National Guidelines for School Re-Entry in Early Learning and Basic Education (2020) guarantees teen mothers and pregnant girls continuity of learning.
“In case a learner becomes pregnant more than once, she shall be allowed re-entry into a learning institution as long as she is within the mandatory schooling age," states the policy.
However, learners who are over 18 years are advised to enroll in adult and continuing education or vocational training centres.
Special schools for teen mothers have been established in Kajiado and Nyeri counties.
Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire has also indicated a similar school could be opened in his constituency next month.
Greenland Girls School in Kajiado County has enrolled 90 young mothers aged 13-21.
“There is a lot of discrimination against teen mothers and due to this, they feel they cannot fit in the (conventional) schools,” says the school’s co-director Purity Gikunda.
Dorise Ng'ong'a, a project officer at Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya Chapter said teachers kill the learners’ self-esteem when they use derogatory terms to describe them.
“They need to be sensitised on how to handle teen mothers and maintain the confidentiality of their issues,” she said during a recent Voice for Women and Girls Rights’s forum.