More than 11,000 girls in primary and secondary schools got pregnant last year, latest statistics from the Ministry of Education show.
The data shows that, out of the 11,950 girls who fell pregnant, 2,885 of them were in primary school while 9,065 were secondary school students.
Bungoma tops the list of counties with the highest number of teenage pregnancies with 1,080 girls, followed by Kakamega with 1,018 cases and Kisii with 1,015 cases.
Other counties with high cases of teenage pregnancies include Kisumu (641), Elgeyo Marakwet (509) and Trans Nzoia (508) cases. Counties with the lowest number of reported cases include Garissa (3), Turkana (3), Wajir (7), Mandera (8) and Isiolo (26).
Counties such as Kitui, Kwale, and Kilifi reported a high number of teenage pregnancies in primary schools than in secondary schools. Only Lamu county did not have cases of teenage pregnancies in secondary schools.
The report was presented before the senate committee on Education on Thursday. Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha said that the high rates of teenage pregnancies are alarming while revealing that unreported cases were even higher.
Kilifi county topped the list of Coast counties with 472 cases reported, followed by Taita Taveta (215), Kwale (187), Mombasa(89), Tana River (42)while Lamu had the least number with only thirteen cases reported.
In the Mt Kenya region, Murang’a tops the list with (344) cases followed by Kirinyaga (242), Nyeri (225) and Kiambu (86).
In Eastern region, Meru led with 490 cases reported, followed by Kitui and Machakos with 261 each, Makueni (169), Tharaka Nithi (102) and Embu (55) cases. Nairobi had 186 reported cases.
The Ministry of Education has identified major causes of teenage pregnancies as lack of parental guidance, lack of sex education in schools and moral decay in the society.
Other cases include lack of guidance and counselling in schools, the boda boda menace around schools and lack of alternative means of discipline to replace corporal punishment. Corporal punishment was banned in schools in 2010.
Prof Magoha also cited cases where some teachers were accused of engaging in sexual activities with learners.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has punished tens of teachers for allegedly impregnating school girls. The teachers’ employer has since asked schools to strengthen the guidance and counselling departments in both primary and secondary schools.
The ministry recently conducted dialogues in all the 47 counties to assess the quality and the state of education in the country. Among the existing challenges cited are teenage pregnancies, early marriages, insecurity, inhibitive cultural practices, indirect costs of secondary education and extreme poverty in households, especially in arid and semi-arid areas.
The major objectives of the dialogues included mapping out strategies to improve access and retention in secondary school.
Prof Magoha said the ministry is focused on addressing the issue of teenage pregnancies with the aim of containing its effects.
“We must all recognise that the issue of teenage pregnancies is a moral issue with heavy implications for basic and lifelong learning. It is a multi-sectoral challenge. We must all become part of the solution,” he said.
Basic Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang’ said the ministry has put in place policies to ensure that teenage mothers go back to school.
“Every child has a right to education regardless of their status,” said Dr Kipsang. He added that the ministry has so far established 460 low-cost boarding schools in areas where girls are vulnerable across the country in a move meant to deal with teenage pregnancies.
He said the ministry is also mulling over establishing a committee to inform policy decisions on strategies to avert the problem.
According to the ministry’s report, teachers who were consulted said pregnant girls should be suspended and granted admission to different schools other than their former schools to discourage girls from engaging in sexual activities at a tender age.
The report also proposed that sex education be introduced in schools however controversial it may be.
While appearing before the senate, Prof Magoha proposed the age of consent (age when a person in legally allowed to engage in sex) to be raised to 21 years, terming the recent proposal that this age should be reduced to 16 years ill-advised.