Teen pregnancies: What should be done?
Published On February 22, 2014 » 6995 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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WHILE there have been remarkable strides in achieving universal access to education, recent reports of teenage pregnancies in schools raise questions on the sustainability of educating every girl-child.
Various education policies have been adopted and implemented since 2000 when Zambia joined the rest of the world in committing to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to achieve universal education.
The results have been tremendous and the country has been lauded for ensuring that every child, including the girl-child, has access to primary education.
However, the country seems to be taken aback with the continuous reports of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who are either pregnant or have had their first child already.
According to a report by the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) submitted to a parliamentary committee on youth and sports, Zambia in 2012 recorded 17,600 teenage pregnancies.
As if that is not bad enough, North-Western Province alone recorded 1,500 pregnancies in 2013.
A survey in different schools in Ndola by the Sunday Times during the week did not reveal any better picture.
For instance, Chifubu High School recorded 87 pregnancies in 2013 while 10 pupils have already dropped out this year after becoming pregnant. It was also discovered that 15 girls at Milemu High School were pregnant last year.
At Temweni High School 15 pupils are reported to have been pregnant last year while Lubuto High School had 15 and two pupils so far have since take leave this year.
Kansenshi High School faces a similar challenge and authorities there recently summoned all parents who have daughters at the school over the problem of high pregnancy rate among the pupils, which has become a growing concern.
With this gloomy picture, questions are being asked: What is causing the rise in teenage pregnancies? What could be the solution to the problem? And whether the perpetrators are being punished for impregnating the pupils.
Apparently, social and economic factors such as high school fees, expensive uniforms, a lack of recreation activities and cultural barriers have been cited as reasons for this problem.
Suffice to say that teenagers are also being exposed to sex early through various means such as movies, internet and television which they later seek to experiment.
PPAZ director Edford Mutuma said the high pregnancy rate among pupils was a huge burden to the country.
Mr Mutuma noted that there were urgent measures needed to resolve the problem and called on the empowerment of the girl-child with information on reproductive health.
“The teenagers need to be empowered with information on reproductive health,” Mr Mutuma said. “This will help to reduce these pregnancies that have reached alarming levels.”
He noted that apart from the concerns of pregnancies, the girl-child was also exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS.
“These pupils are exposed to HIV/AIDS and this is an indication that they were not using condoms. We can’t let this go on like this, we need to empower them with information,” he said.
However, Mr Mutuma said the other reasons were lack of youth-friendly health services as well as inadequate infrastructure to attract young people at health centres.
Forum for African Women Educationalists of Zambia (FAWEZA) national coordinator Agness Mumba Shipanuka expressed concern at the high statistics of teen pregnancies.
Ms Shipanuka called on the school head teachers to implement the Education Act of 2011 which allowed school administrators to permit pupils that had not paid school fees to remain in class.
“No head teacher should be sending away a pupil as a girl-child is vulnerable,” she said. “As a result of the high school fees some of the girls are forced to develop relationships in order to pay to the school, which is sad.”
She also called on parents and the Government to review the issue of boarding houses where pupils stayed while at school but without any supervision.
“Some cultural practices have also contributed to the teen pregnancies as some boys are told to prove their manhood by sleeping with a young woman,” she said.
Perhaps it is the reason that Senior Chief Chiwala of Masaiti District on the Copperbelt has embarked on various programmes to ensure that the teen mothers return to school under the re-entry policy.
The traditional leader is also said to have withdrawn eight girls aged between 15 and 17 from early marriages in his chiefdom.
Some of these pregnancies are coming with their complications of maternal deaths, abortions, malnutrition, HIV and AIDS, parent child hostility and ultimately moral degradation.
Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) secretary general Newman Bubala called for the community to also work with schools in order to reduce teenage pregnancies in schools.
Mr Bubala said parents should not leave teachers to instill discipline to pupils but they should also find time to monitor the performance of their children from school.
“Parents should also learn to instill discipline in their children and should not leave everything to be done by the teachers at school,” Mr Bubala said.
In worst scenarios, teachers have been involved or accused of impregnating their own pupils while outsiders such as bus drivers and ‘sugar daddies’ have also been culprits in this scourge.
But the Public Private and Drivers Association of Zambia (PPDZ), much as some of its members are fond of having affairs with pupils, says it does not condone such behaviour.
PPDZ Copperbelt information and publicity secretary John Mwape advised drivers to respect passengers and avoid developing relationships with pupils.
“We advise drivers to respect passengers, even pupils, because they are our customers,” he said.
It is clear that teenage pregnancy is slowly but becoming an issue that could prevent Zambia from celebrating its achievements of educating the girl-child over the past decade.
This inevitably calls for serious and practical measures that will not only protect the girl-child, but also place them in a better position to concentrate on education and be a responsible citizen.

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