The Catholic Church, leaders and parents in a Catholic school have demanded the arrest of pro-abortion activists who visited a secondary school in Kitui County and administered birth control measures to students without their parents’ consent.
Shocked parents demanded that the birth control procedures be reversed.
The activists from Marie Stopes Kenya, an organisation that advocates for women’s rights to have children by choice, visited Archbishop Boniface Lele Secondary School in Mang’elu, Kitui West, on Wednesday as the world celebrated The Day of the Girl Child.
They gave the teenagers birth control medication, including the Norplant – a hormone-infused rod used to prevent pregnancy that is inserted under the skin, normally in the upper arm, and which is effective for up to five years.
The Norplant has side effects, including prolonged and irregular menstrual bleeding, breast pain, vomiting, weight gain, scalp hair loss, among others.
Angry parents told the Nation the girls, who are between 14 and 17 years of age, were duped into taking family planning drugs.
One parent, Mrs Munanie Muusya, said her daughter was given the Norplant and she had withdrawn her from the school for treatment.
She said that Marie Stopes should be held accountable for any health risks and the school principal held liable for negligence and surrendering the safety of the girls to strangers.
“We are shocked that this was allowed to happen. What those people did will encourage our girls to carelessly engage in unprotected sex and they can easily contract sexually transmitted diseases” Mrs Muusya said.
Ms Harriet Owire, who led the Marie Stopes team, said they only counselled individual students after the main lecture on reproductive health.
She, however, refused to discuss claims that they administered birth control pills.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua condemned the incident.
"This is a grave matter. Exposing children to contraceptive treatment of whatever nature without the consent of their parents is unacceptable," he said.
Mr Wambua urged the Ministry of Education to investigate the incident and assure parents in Kitui County that their children are safe in schools.
"I thought the government had banned school visits in the third term. Parents are not even allowed to visit their children in schools this term. I can't visit children in schools to motivate them as they prepare for exams. But strangers are allowed into a school to administer contraceptives on minors!” he said.
Kitui Catholic Diocesan Secretary for Education Fr Julius Muthamba termed the incident “scandalous and criminal”, saying the matter was being investigated and those responsible would be held to account.
The Priest said he had instructed the principal, Andrew Kwale, to give him the full details of what transpired and why the organisation was allowed to engage students in morally negative lessons and medical procedures.
“The Catholic strong stand against contraceptives is widely known. It’s sad that this happened inside a school that we sponsor but more fundamentally the negative effect in spoiling the girls morally,” Fr Muthamba said.
The principal said he allowed the organisation into the school compound after they told him that they had been cleared by the county director of education to conduct health awareness to girls but he was not aware that their mission was different.
Mr Kwale said the Marie Stopes officials were left alone with the students as he did not expect them to go beyond the guidance and counselling lessons they had requested.
“Obviously, no one would authorise such a thing in a school. They came with community health workers known to us and we trusted them but we are all trying to establish what happened during the meeting,” he said.
The incident happened as Marie Stopes Kenya was smarting from another controversy of running Facebook adverts promising relief to women dumped by their boyfriends after getting pregnant or women whose family planning methods have backfired.
The first advertisement was in the format of a photo of a gazelle with the words: “Hata chali yako akiruka ball usistress … we gatchu” (Even if your boyfriend refuses to take responsibility for your pregnancy, do not worry, we got you).