By DANIEL ODEKE
The schools are closed for arguably one of the longest holidays in history. Two months of the holiday is surely something that has been received with mixed reactions with the school going lot at the sweet end of things, looking at it as a reward after a long period of squeezed academic calendars to make up for the COVID-19 pandemic effect on the same, while the parents in somewhat a bitter-sweet end factoring the economic roller coaster the country is experiencing at the moment. Amid all the hype, sweet and bitter-sweet experiences, there arose a concern, what does this mean to the young and very pragmatic generation in our society?
History has it that such experiences have increasingly grown concerning especially regarding teenage pregnancies. This phenomenon is not new to Kenya, and probably the fear of the unfortunate positive trajectory of the same has grown over time. The statistic around teenage pregnancies paints a picture of what would present as a siege and more specifically a generational siege considering the age of school-going children, more in secondary schools. According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 18% of girls aged 15-19 years have either had a live birth or are currently pregnant with their first child. This means that one in every five teenage girls in Kenya is pregnant or has already given birth. Factoring this with the environment that the holidays are going to create, it’s only fair and logical to assume that the numbers will soar even more not unless pragmatic solutions are put in place.
Long school holidays have often been cited as a contributing factor to teenage pregnancies in Kenya. During the holidays, it is assumed that teenagers have more idle time and are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as unprotected sex, well, this line of thought no longer holds because the current generation of teenagers no longer views such behaviours as ‘risky’, they do view such as ‘having fun’ and they are out to have most of it. With the current generation’s pragmatic nature, it’s only fair to address the subject such as sex in truth and with honesty. A study conducted by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) found that the number of teenage pregnancies in Kenya increases significantly during the long December-January holidays. The study found that the rate of teenage pregnancies is 20% higher during this period than during the rest of the year, considering that this time round, the holidays will run from November to January, we can agree that this is a concern not just for the teenagers but an entire generation.
It is such experiences and concerns that remind us how Comprehensive Sexuality Education is not a subject of opinion but a necessary intervention. We are looking at a generation’s future being subjected to the possibility of unproductivity, untapped potential, poverty and economic inequality, gender-based violence, and early marriage just to mention but a few. This screams a call for several steps to address the challenge of teenage pregnancy, including a comprehensive revision and implementation of the national reproductive health policy 2022-2023, increasing access to family planning services among other Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights services for adolescents and encompassing comprehensive sexuality education in schools. It’s only by understanding the current generation of teenagers with an inclusive approach that the generational siege staring at us can be avoided.
Daniel Odeke is an SRHR Advocate at NAYA Kenya, SAIC II. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @D_Oramisi