The chirping birds signals the dawn of a new day, young boys and girls of Kaila village in Seme sub county rising up to go to school but for Achieng (not her real name) it signals the dawn of washing old rags turned in cloth dippers for her baby.
At 16 years old she should be walking in the line between childhood and adulthood but she is already a mother. In 2017 Achieng joined form one at a local day school in east seme ward. The morning and evening walks with a boy from the same school turned into a relationship and it didn’t take long before she found out she was pregnant. She had to drop out of school and remained at home until she was due and delivered her baby. “I have stayed away from school for more than ten months and I intend to go back to school next year thanks to my parents who have been supporting me with the little that they have.” Achieng speaks
Achieng is not alone, she tells me four of her female friends are already pregnant and have dropped out of school and two of them have already been married off.
Most girls in seme sub county get pregnant before their 9th grade and find it difficult in balancing between parenthood and school life ending up dropping out of school. Only a few girls resolve to return back to school and pursue their education after getting pregnant. Besides curtailing girl child education, teenage pregnancy is associated with high maternal and child mortality and morbidity.
Statistics from the Kenya Demographic health survey 2014 has given a picture of girls whose education has been cut short due to early pregnancy. 15% of girls aged 15-19 years in Kisumu County have begun childbearing. Specifically, 3.1% are pregnant with their first child and 12.4% have ever given birth.
Stake holders in the education sector attributes the trend of teenage pregnancy among young girls due to the rise of bodaboda riders who take advantage of the young girls after giving them free ride to school, poverty, disco matangas and inadequate sexual and reproductive health information and services.
More reproductive health interventions such as availing high quality age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in and out of schools, offering free and high quality reproductive health services and awareness creation among men and women needs to be put in place in order to keep girls and boys in school.
There is also need for Governor Anyang Nyongo to implement his manifesto to the latter. One of the pledges he made in his manifesto was to carry out reproductive health education in communities, especially among the youth and provide safe contraceptives and to offer education on their use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. So far this is yet to be done and I urge him to live up to his promise.