The increase in early childhood pregnancy and school drop outs is completely alarming. Majority of the victims are between the ages of ten to fifteen and in primary and secondary schools. This is a problem felt in many parts of Africa.
Always the blame shifts between parents and teachers with the latter blaming students and their parents and/or guardians. It is a high time we stopped this blame game and look into the core of the matter. The society should realize that these are our children and their future is at stake .
To offer help questions like the cause and solution to the problem, and what is to be done to avoid reoccurrence should be answered promptly.
I think pregnancy is not the problem but a tip of an iceberg on gender issues in the patriarchal society. I mean take an early morning walk in a typical Kenyan village; you will find little girls already up early doing family chores. Some may have huge water containers on their head while others will be making breakfast for boys and men still snoring away.
By the time the girl child gets ready for school, they will be very tired and obviously late. Fatigued during lessons her mind will constantly stray to more work awaiting her at home.
While boys will be anxious to go home and play what awaits the girl is cooking and doing other domestic chores!
The bottom line is African culture which places the girl in doing domestic chores, this alternatively demoralizes girls in working hard in school as the culture too dictates financial support from men.
Why should girls work hard if it only equates to domestic chores? Therefore at ten she feels very mature because she can do all the domestic chores just like any other grown up married women. With these reservations she falls for the ‘wife trap’ with village men proclaiming their love because she can do all a wife is entailed to do.
The trap of early pregnancy which culminates to school dropout is well placed with a promise of marriage which is seen as a God sent opportunity out of domestic work!!
What is the solution to these?
First and foremost parents should get rid of cultural practices that burden the girl child. At home children should be encouraged to share domestic chores to ease the burden. Besides children should be nurtured knowing they need to help at home with work this will aid them in enjoying work instead of seeing it as a burden.
This helps children to grow up knowing their parents love and care for them. Equipped with this knowledge will shield them from malicious men proclaiming false love to them all in the name of getting under their pants.
Secondly, at an early age and in every opportunity parents should openly and in straightway talk to their children about sex. For example if you find your daughter talking to your neighbor’s son do not shout at her saying that you don’t want to see them talking again. This is because the problem lies at what they might do when they are alone and not in talking together.
This is an opportunity for sex education without using reprimanding and abusive words which might harm a girls self esteem making her more vulnerable to premature sex. Talk on sex, menstrual period and responsible parenthood will be introduced with caution given on relationship with men.
How would you feel as a parent when a stranger tells you daughter “Malaya, tibia Kama ya mama yako….” Of course it will hurt. Now imagine them coming from a parent who should be a shelter and a pillar of sex education for her?
With no sex education she will turn to society and peers, and whoever is not taught by her parents, a Swahili adage goes, will be taught by the world! No parent I know will be willing see his daughter being taught by the harsh world.
Lastly do not assume that your is child holier than thou. Parents should be constantly on the lookout on their children for sexual activity to aid in bringing up our future mothers who will be the pillar of Kenyan society. Even advise from teachers and society although sometimes exaggerated can have some truth to help bring up a child.
I think its a high time parents should take charge of their children’s destiny by loving and caring for them by having frequent sex education and dropping poor cultural practices.
By: Edna Ipalei