Is The Spike In Teenage Pregnancy In Kenya Alarming And Distressing Or A Hidden Agenda To Introduce Sex Education in Schools?
A recent research has hit mainstream media in Kenya showing an increase of teenage pregnancies within the different counties since schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, these shocking numbers have sparked a heated debate and gyrated blame between different stakeholders, but, how factual are these figures? And what does these mean for the Kenyan society?
After these numbers were released, the Education Cabinet Secretary came out, blaming pornography as the main reason resulting to the high number of teenage pregnancy in Kenya. These remarks were criticized and condemned by Kenyans with most asking how can young girls who have no internet connection or smart phones in rural area, who are recording the highest numbers access pornographic material.
The top three leading counties include Nairobi County, Kakamega County, Homa Bay County, Nakuru County and Kajiado County.
However, according to a teen coach, Catherine Karira, young people during this pandemic period have two things in plenty; time and technology.
She says, ‘’with a lot of time, idleness sets the stage for negative ideas and most of them think fun is only in the negative things. Idleness is the enemy of the soul and you are what you admire.’’
Young people also use technology for various things, some positive others negative, like watching pornography which in turn fuels sexual immorality among them.
Nonetheless, kids in the rural areas who may not have access to technology have plenty of free time which is unaccounted for and most parents have no idea what their children are doing with the free time and with who.
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Many a parents are shying away from engaging their kids in sex education and this in turn makes their children an easier prey.
Being Africans, sex conversations have for a long time been considered a taboo and hence most parents avoid talking about it.
‘’Kenya claims to have 80 per cent of the population as Christians which should help us speak about sex. We can’t speak about sex without the Bible since sex was created by the God of the bible.’’ Explains Catherine Karira.
According to teen coach Catherine Karira, these high figures showing more teenage girls pregnant during this ‘stay-at-home’ period ought to be dissected further.
She asks, ‘Are these figures factual? Could this be leading to a push for abortion? Does anyone have a hidden agenda to introduce contraceptive pills to our children? Could this be an agenda to lower the sexual consent from the current 18 years? Who is making these kids pregnant and is not having sex with an underage a crime? Where are these men?’’
Reducing the age consent debate has been floating on public forums with various relevant stakeholders taking different and polarizing stand. Court judges have argued that most of the perpetrators include young boys who are also below the age of 18, and some end up having their lives taken away from them.
This is not the first time teenage pregnancy cases hit the headlines. It has always been the norm each year kids are at home for the long holidays with no solution found.
Most of these young girls living in rural areas are also unaware of contraceptives like condoms or other family planning methods, with some living with mothers who are also unaware of these family planning methods.
As soon as the cases are no longer hitting the headlines, people stop talking about them until the situation reoccurs, a perfect out of sight out of mind tale.
‘’Unfortunately we stop speaking when there are no pregnancies cases showing or being reported. We must speak all throughout the times and in all forums. The youngest of the girls was nine years and if we can’t speak to the little ones about sex, we can never speak to the teens about sex. ‘’ Laments Catherine Karira.
The media also plays a delicate roll in dealing with teenage pregnancy in Kenya. Young people admire the media and the people show cased in media. It is their responsibility to pave way and set good examples worth educating and empower young people.
According to Catherine Karira, media personalities should dress to bless and not to kill. She believes the media aggravates things because bad and negative things are attractive.
They should ban any form of soft pornographic content on their platforms that come in form of music or programs.
They can also help by having relevant talks on their platforms and bring in role models who can help spearhead this kind of conversations.
‘’These should be people who can raise the bar by dressing in modesty, since no one can speak about sexual abstinence while wearing a mini dress that has one’s breasts checking out. This will also require the media to have programs on sexual purity and the power of abstinence.’’ Adds Catherine Karira.
While the media works on a certain budget within each year, the teen coach urges the media executives to set aside a budget that will go into facilitating wellness talks and let the project be driven by a woman, for a woman feels the pain of a child.
She further elucidates that they should have a meeting for training the trainers and always have people who are passionate about such causes as opposed to familiar faces on the screens who have no depth on the concerned matters.
Moving forward, the society needs to console, empathize with and encourage the girls because getting pregnant is not the end of life.
They should encourage the girls to carry the babies to full term, speak against abortion and afterwards encourage them to go back to school.
It is also important to speak to both genders, the boys and the girls and this is because, a girl can only be made pregnant by one boy but one boy can make lots of girls pregnant.
While abstinence may not be the fastest solution to these young people who largely consume content that corrupts their mind and gives them the urges to explore things, it is important to teach them safe sex too, because, most young people fear getting pregnant than getting a sexual transmitted disease of HIV/AIDS.
‘’We must hit it before it hits us, as parents, we must speak as early as possible. This is because it is a sad situation to have even toddlers being defiled. Parents must protect the innocence of the kids and avoid doing things that will erode their morals like kissing and inappropriately touching each other in front of their children or making noises from their bedroom for the walls have ears too.’’ Says Catherine Karira.
It is important to let the boys and girls know the consequences of engaging in sexual activities and without letting the pressure from the media affect the message.
‘’Teenagers need to know that there is no thrill in crime. Today’s thrill is the tears of tomorrow and that sex is not a play game neither is it an emergency. The boys should also know that erection is natural but an erection should not give you direction. They should learn to tame themselves before they lose themselves.’’ Notes Catherine Karira.
While most people have raised the blame on the male family members who are taking advantage of these young girls, others blamed include boda-boda riders and shop keepers who are also taking advantage of these girls who may be in need of basic things by asking them to pay via sex.
It is the responsibility of the national and county government to protect these young girls by ensuring that perpetrators are arrested and jailed.
They should also roll out policies and guidelines that empower these young girls so that they have enough information on how best they can protect themselves from people who may want to take advantage over them.
Parents also ought to be keen on what their children are up to during this period when they are at home and help them find positive things they can engage in to keep them busy and help them grow as individuals.
Catherine Karira is a born again Christian who is a youth pastor who speaks in various forums including television programs, addressing the youths, teens, preteens, parents and couples. Her passion is to make the young people know issues and be empowered before they end up regretting.
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