The recent uproar over this year’s national exam candidates, who either delivered or were found to be pregnant as they sat their papers is the most evident manifestation of a serious social problem. It is only the focus on the KCPE and KCPE exams that has so dramatically drawn national attention to a growing crisis.
Even if those who gave birth were able to sit and pass their exams, we have a situation where children who have just completed their Standard Eight will have to look after their own children. And it is not a walk in the park. This is a burden that weighs down many families, having to cater for these teenagers and their children.
A number of explanations have been given for this sorry situation. One is about parents failing to play their role as expected.
Second, poverty plays a part as some of these children are easily lured with gifts and preyed on. Third, some of the men responsible are in some cases their own teachers or their schoolmates.
This calls for a comprehensive approach to a problem that threatens to roll back the gains made in improving the lives of young girls.
As they fall pregnant, they also expose themselves to deadly diseases, including HIV/Aids. Indeed, the pregnancy is the evidence that they are engaging in unprotected sex.
The enormity of the problem is evident in the latest statistics that should worry us all. Seven in 10 girls aged between 15 and 19, who live in urban areas, for instance, are sexually-active and many of them are not using protection. In the rural areas, 23 per cent of girls had engaged in sexual activity compared to zero per cent of boys in the same age group, according to a study by Research Plus Africa.
Adolescent sexual behaviour is a scourge that needs to be seriously tackled or we will see many more candidates falling pregnant before or as they sit their exams. For many this is a ticket to a bleak future.
We couldn’t agree more with the researchers that there is need for a frank conversation around the sexual and reproductive needs of young Kenyans.