Returning Child Mothers Back to School
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicates that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant. While adolescents aged 10-19 years constitute 24% of Kenya’s population, 13,000 teenage girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy and only 50% of them transition to secondary school with high dropout rates, particularly for girls (KDHS 2014).In other words, the proportion of child mothers is a sad and growing phenomenon in Kenya. A child pregnancy means the end to the girl’s education, and potential health complications and risks during pregnancy and at child birth. It also implies exacerbation of the cycle of poverty while weakening socio-economic development and adding strain to already stretched health services and children born to child mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive developmental challenges. While the Ministry of Education in Kenya has a robust national return to school policy, its operationalization is a challenge due to numerous socio-economic and socio-cultural implications of a child pregnancy.
What is needed is a comprehensive package of interventions that supports the child mothers to go back to school and complete their basic education. The comprehensive package would include financing of schooling (school levies, exam fees, books and other scholarly materials, uniforms, sanitary towels), mentorship, menstrual hygiene education, accurate and up-to-date information on their bodies and access to effective contraception, family/community anti-stigma support system, child care/support, community level positive gender norms mobilization, prevention of all forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and income generation for their families. This is initiative is about giving child mothers a second chance at achieving their right to education in Kenya and an opportunity to get out of poverty. This solution aligns with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #1 of no poverty; #2 of zero hunger; #3 of good health and wellbeing; #4 of quality education; and #5 of gender equality. Girls who will have benefited from the program and returned back to school will be Ambassadors of change passing the good message to other girls in school to abstain from sexual activities and focus on their education.