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Teenage pregnancy: keeping up with the Joneses has eclipsed family interaction

Saturday July 04 2020
TEEPIC

Tens of teenagers in Kilifi wrote their KCPE exam while pregnant. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DOROTHY KWEYU

As the schoolgirl pregnancy topic rages, one of the strongest statements so far was from Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, who accused parents of negligence and abdicating their responsibility to advise their children on the dangers of early sex. Benjamin Sogomo, a former Teachers Service Commission secretary, expressed a similar view days later in his column in this paper.

There has been concern that pregnancy figures — 3,964 in Machakos County alone — were ‘doctored’ to suit reproductive health NGOs’ agenda to expand the contraceptives market by introducing underage children to pills and condoms. Hype or not, any under-18 becoming pregnant at a time when she should be advancing her education is one too many.

Four factors, among many others, could be fuelling the pregnancies. They include idleness and the fact that parents do not teach their children to refrain from adultery, which covers all out-of-wedlock sexual relations. Parents spend most of their time making money and leave the children to their own devices. Lastly, we have abandoned our culture, which forbade incest.

When the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Kenya in March, it was suggested that non-resident househelps stay away from their workplaces. This was informed by the fact that students would take over domestic chores. But alas! That didn’t factor the fact that parents who’d ‘suffered a lot’ under ‘ruthless’ parents wanted a better lot for their children. Many househelps still commute to work, exposing themselves and the households they serve to the virus, to spare the ‘masters’ and ‘missies’ the ‘ignominy’ of housework.

Parents forget the Aristotelian wisdom that nature abhors a vacuum, and with little or no schoolwork to do, children are left with too much energy for their own good. They spend most of their time savouring pornography, as Prof Magoha observed, and priming themselves for sexual experimentation.

More than three-quarters of Kenya’s population is Christian and the remainder has a significant proportion of Muslims. Most of them are people of the Book — including the Old Testament — so they know that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” also proscribes fornication. When the pre- and newly post-Independence generation were growing up, family prayers were mandatory. But various factors scuttled the family altar.

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Inasmuch as parents need finances to cater for their families, there’s a sense in which making money and keeping up with the Joneses has been overrated to the point of eclipsing family interaction. I’m reminded of a retreat during which an exasperated priest accused parents of attending to their “goats” while the Devil attended to their children.

Last but not least, an observation trending in the social media is that some of the pregnancies are caused by the fathers and their sons — an abomination, since most African cultures proscribe incest. Growing up in western Kenya, an important teaching that was drummed into young people was to ask a potential spouse what their clan was. Sex was forbidden at home and within the wider clan. It’s time we went back to basics, kept our children busy to burn excess sexual energies and slowed the rat race for our children’s sake.

Ms Kweyu is a consultant revise editor with the ‘Daily Nation’. [email protected]

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