This year’s national exams revealed an emerging and serious societal problem of teenage pregnancies that has not been given the attention it deserves in the past.
A good number of female candidates either sat their exams in hospital wards or did not write the exams because they were expectant, with others delivering in the course of the exams.
The exam period only revealed the extent to which we have continued to overlook discussions about adolescent sexuality.
Kilifi County reported about 13,624 pregnancies this year among schoolchildren aged 15 to 19, according to the Children's Affairs Department, with the children’s officer recording 290 cases of pregnancies among girls aged between 10 and 14 years.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly 378,400 adolescent girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 years became pregnant between July 2016 and June 2017.
A total of 28,932 girls aged between 10 and 14 years were impregnated, while 349,465 girls were between 15 to 19 years. The statistics are not only shocking but they point to a serious societal issue that must be addressed urgently.
The problem of teenage pregnancy points to many root causes, one of them being parenting, which has become a challenge in this era.
Parenting is key to the development of a child, and it includes promoting and supporting a child physically, emotionally, socially, financially and intellectually from infancy to adulthood.
Additionally, the process of parenting has changed with time. In the past, a child was raised by the whole village.
The child belonged to the community and therefore the parents and the entire community spent time with the children influencing their social and cognitive skills.
Close by adults and older children also acted as surrogate parents, and the distinct role of instructing children on sensitive topics like sexuality, morals and values was played by the grandparents.
In the modern society family has changed. Physically, the distance between the village and the town has significantly diminished the grandparents’ roles in child-rearing and socialisation.
The family institution is now privatised and parents have become engrossed in careers and other undertakings, hence they are away from home most of the time.
The amount and worth of time parents spend with their children has diminished significantly. Again, a number of families are now headed by single parents, either by choice, death, separation or divorce.
Many parents have also left the children in the hands of teachers in school, the house managers and their peers, which is a major challenge.
When children grow from infancy to adolescence to adulthood, they need good parenting, which is only possible when an individual creates for a child a stable, rearing home setting, is a positive role model and plays an active role in a child’s life.
EDWARD CEDRIC, Nairobi