Big de­bate on sex ed­u­ca­tion and con­tro­versy of teen preg­nan­cies


Ex­perts say girls should get the right knowl­edge, then left to choose whether to ab­stain or not

As re­newed de­bate on sex ed­u­ca­tion con­tin­ues af­ter con­tro­versy over teen preg­nan­cies, Mr Peter Mo­gaka rests easy with the knowl­edge that all his school­ing daugh­ters are on birth con­trol.

Mr Mo­gaka, a sug­ar­cane farmer in Kisii County, is happy that his daugh­ters are al­most done with their sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion with­out any risk of fall­ing preg­nant.

He made the de­ci­sion af­ter a dou­ble tragedy. His el­dest daugh­ter, he says, be­came preg­nant while in Stan­dard Seven. She died while de­liv­er­ing.

“She was still very young and her or­gans were not well de­vel­oped so she could not push the baby. They both died,” he re­calls.

Af­ter that, birth con­trol be­came an op­tion.

“As a par­ent, I know the pain of los­ing a child to reck­less sex­ual be­hav­iour. No one should ever in­struct me on how to han­dle my fam­ily af­fairs. I am not re­gret­ting it,” he says.

Mr Mo­gaka's de­ci­sion is sure to rile the Catholic Church and other re­li­gious lead­ers, as its bish­ops on Tues­day said it is “in­trin­si­cally wrong” to give chil­dren con­tra­cep­tives.

“We would like to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing in­stead of pick­ing the short-term un­eth­i­cal so­lu­tions such as con­tra­cep­tives,” said Bishop Philip Any­olo, the chair­man of the Kenya Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops.

So, should par­ents just ad­mit that mere talk won't help their chil­dren who be­come sex­u­ally ac­tive from an early age? A study re­leased in April 2017 al­ready con­cluded that teens want more than just talk.

Re­searchers from the Guttmacher and African Pop­u­la­tion and Health Re­search Cen­tre in­ter­viewed 2,484 teenagers aged be­tween 15 and 17 in Homa Bay, Mom­basa and Nairobi coun­ties. The out­come was that most of the teens wanted to know more about con­tra­cep­tives, an ad­mis­sion that they were al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive.

So, sex ed­u­ca­tion or con­tra­cep­tion? Our in­ter­views with var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als yielded vary­ing re­sults.

Ms Es­ther Mbau from Amani Coun­selling Cen­tre said girls should be given the right knowl­edge be­fore they can choose whether to ab­stain or not.

“Be­fore the con­tra­cep­tives, I would ad­vo­cate life skills train­ing, and a lot of real talk with the girls,” said Ms Mbau.

For Mr Nel­son Ot­woma, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Net­work of Peo­ple Liv­ing with HIV and Aids in Kenya, it is im­por­tant to give sex ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren be­fore they be­come sex­u­ally ac­tive.

“We need to fo­cus more on girls since they ma­ture faster than boys and when they are at their prime stage, they tend to ex­per­i­ment a lot of things,” he said.

Mr Arthur Muriuki, a con­sult­ing psy­chol­o­gist, be­lieves that not all teens are en­gag­ing in sex and that could be the start­ing point in the con­ver­sa­tion.

“The ques­tion here then might be: Why are these teenagers not hav­ing sex and not get­ting preg­nant? What knowl­edge might they have that their coun­ter­parts lack?” he posed.

The start­ing point, he said, is to have age-ap­pro­pri­ate sex ed­u­ca­tion be­cause chil­dren are im­bued with sex­ual in­nu­en­dos all around them: from com­mer­cials, videos, house­helps and older chil­dren.

“This child will want to try and do what they ob­serve. If we ban the pornog­ra­phy sites, we heighten their cu­rios­ity. We cre­ate a black mar­ket ring,” Mr Muriuki said.

His com­ment on ban­ning pornog­ra­phy was in re­ac­tion to re­marks made early last week by Prof Ge­orge Magoha, the chair­man of the Kenya Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil. who said the block­ing of porno­graphic sites will re­duce the preg­nancy cri­sis.

Ac­cord­ing to a De­cem­ber 2017 re­port by the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund, some 78,397 ado­les­cent girls in Kenya aged be­tween 10 and 19 be­came preg­nant be­tween July 2016 and June 2017.

Another re­port re­leased by the Ed­u­ca­tion min­istry in July this year iden­ti­fied Narok, Kil­ifi, Meru, Bun­goma, Bu­sia, Mig­ori, Nairobi and Homa Bay as the coun­ties most af­fected by the teenage preg­nancy cri­sis.

The teen preg­nancy cri­sis man­i­fested it­self dur­ing the na­tional ex­am­i­na­tions that started from Oc­to­ber. In Kil­ifi County, for in­stance, 13,624 teenage preg­nan­cies had been re­ported be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber.

The shock­ing num­ber led the Gen­der min­istry of­fi­cials to choose Kil­ifi as the county of fo­cus dur­ing this year's 16 Days of Ac­tivism that are geared to­wards re­duc­ing vi­o­lence against women.

Ms Faith Ka­siva, the Sec­re­tary for gen­der af­fairs in the State Depart­ment of Gen­der Af­fairs, told the

that one of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors in the Kil­ifi prob­lem is cul­ture, in that girls are sup­posed to sleep in houses quite far from their par­ents.

“For me, what was very dis­turb­ing again is that some of the preg­nan­cies were from ado­les­cent boys. It's re­ally a con­cern,” added Ms Ka­siva.

The ex­perts we in­ter­viewed gave a raft of sug­ges­tions to­wards ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. Ms Mbau said a girl who has just hit pu­berty is usu­ally in a con­fused state of mind.

I'll share from my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. There is a lot of con­fu­sion, a lot of self-doubt at that stage. If this girl has not had some­one to talk to her and pre­pare her in ad­vance, she may ac­tu­ally feel dirty. And this erodes her self-worth,” she said.

“What she will do, if she does not find a good men­tor to help her through this very cru­cial stage, she will look for that self-worth in all the wrong places,” added Ms Mbau.

For Mr Muriuki, the ban­ning of porno­graphic web­sites will do lit­tle to help. He says par­ents should play the biggest role.

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