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Schools ready to pick Form Ones amid teenage mothers headache

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By OUMA WANZALA
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By GAITANO PESSA
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By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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Secondary school headteachers are faced with a dilemma on how they will deal with teen mothers as they begin selecting Form Ones on Monday.

The Ministry of Education is pushing for a 100 percent transition to secondary school, leaving headteachers with no choice but to absorb the 1,052,364 pupils who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education this year.

According to government policy, no student can be suspended or expelled from school for being pregnant or being a mother.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said there are no clear guidelines on how schools should deal with pregnant students, but said they have a right to a conducive and free learning environment.

Ten girls gave birth during this year’s KCPE exams, while others sat the tests while pregnant and yet others were mothers. The Ministry of Education estimates that 13,000 girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancies.

“Yes, we will have cases of candidates who recently gave birth being enrolled in secondary schools. We cannot deny them the opportunity to learn. We will support them,” Mr Indimuli said.

This year’s candidates will be placed in secondary schools starting on Monday and are expected to begin their secondary education in January.

According to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, preliminary statistics show that the magnitude of the problem is far bigger than the government had initially thought.

“We are staring at a national challenge. I have directed education officials to expand the scope of their analysis to complete the survey in all the primary and secondary schools in the country across a three-year period (2016-2018),” Ms Mohamed said.

Teso Kenya National Union of Teachers Executive Secretary Deogratius Owaya said the trend poses a threat to efforts to educate girls.

“We have 16 girls in Teso South Sub-County who are likely to miss Form One because they are pregnant. We have talked to headteachers and even parents who have confirmed the same,” he said and accused parents of abdicating their role of instilling discipline and morals in their children.

“Parenthood has turned out to be a song in most public meetings. We have given our children too much freedom and it’s no coincidence most of them are always in video shows or discotheques,” he said.

In Narok, County Commissioner George Natembeya has announced plans to subject schoolgirls in the county to pregnancy tests on the first day of the new term in January.

He shrugged off criticism that the tests would infringe on the girls’ privacy, saying it is the only way to stop the trend and vowing to face any challenge in courts.

He also said the girls would be tested to determine if they were subjected to female genital mutilation during the December holidays.

He warned parents of those found to have undergone the ritual that they will be arrested and charged in court.

“I understand there are some chiefs who are bribed with cows to hush up FGM, teenage pregnancies and early marriages. Be on the lookout because we are coming for you. We shall fire you, arrest you and prosecute you,” he said.

According to a recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS) report, Narok has the highest number of teenage pregnancies.

On Friday, Ms Mohamed and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang did not respond to questions on how students who have just delivered or are pregnant will be accommodated in schools.

Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion urged the government to ensure that such students continue with their studies. Mr Indimuli said it is not possible to test candidates for pregnancy without the permission of their parents.

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