By Kurgat Marindany and Ben Leshau
Narok and Kajiado counties are the most notorious in teenage pregnancies in the country, a recent government study reveals.
The news are causing shockwaves in the counties as leaders search for solutions to the perennial problem that has affected girl-child education in the region.
In Narok, the county with the highest teenage pregnancies in the country, political leaders are set to convene a crisis meeting to deliberate on measures to mitigate the vice.
The leaders led by area Governor Samuel Tunai and legislators, Lemanken Aramat (Narok East) and Narok West’s Gabriel Tongoyo termed the school dropout of girls due to early pregnancies and early marriages as unacceptable.
“This habit of girls undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), getting pregnant early and getting married off at a tender age is a crisis that should end,” said Governor Tunai.
Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.
According to recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS), Narok was ranked top with 40 percent followed by Homa Bay and Tana River counties with 33 and 29 percent respectively raising concern.
Governor Tunai vowed to work with area elected leaders, county security team and education stakeholders in a bid to come up with a lasting solution to the menace.
In Kajiado County pregnancy rate among school going girls ranks at number 10 countrywide.
County Director of Education, Shamsa Adan, County Education Director, however, said in an interview that no delivery of babies was recorded during this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination.
“Although we did not record any deliveries during examination, cases of pregnancies among school-going girls in Kajiado causes are alarming. It is strikingly high among primary and secondary school girls,” said Adan.
She said the vice is common in the interior regions of Matapato South, Maparasha, Meto, Mailua, Sera, Loitokitok, Mashuuru and Kajiado West.
He observed that in the rural areas where moranism is still rampant, are impregnated at a tender age unlike in urban centres.
County Commissioner David Kipkemei has been leading the fight against FGM and early marriages in the area.
Governor Tunai called for concerted efforts in eradicating the menace by the year 2019.
Aramat, whose constituency is leads in early pregnancies in Narok, blamed parents who he said collude with culprits to frustrate justice by opting for out-of-court settlements.
He noted that the transition rate from lower primary to upper primary among school girls in his constituency was on the decline as majority drop before sitting for their KCPE.
Narok Commissioner George Natembeya recently attributed the rampant underage pregnancies in the county to the FGM.
He warned to arrest and prosecute all the circumcisers.
In Kajiado just a day before the start of KCPE, a 14-year -old pupil at Sera Primary School was married off by her parents to a man in total disregard of her right to sit the examination.
It was only through the intervention of county commissioner who led police officers to rescue the girl and ensured she sat for her final exam.
A recent study by Ministry of Health reveals that girls in the village start having children at an early age.
They are married off at an average age of 20, the study indicated.
The study also showed the majority do not use contraceptives until they are 22 years old.
Hundreds of girls gave birth during this year’s examinations. The cases were spread across the country.
Some girls were also rescued while cohabiting with men. In July, education officials were investigating how nine girls from Matutu PAG Mixed Secondary School became pregnant in three months.
The report stated that Health ministry agencies visited the school and spoke to some of the effected girls, one of whom had already given birth. “I just don’t know how it happened. It was a first attempt and now I am pregnant,” confessed one girl.
The report, conducted with the help of the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020), revealed that girls in towns break their virginity at 18.4 years and start using contraceptives at 21.9 years.
The PMA2020 is an independent project that has since 2014 tracked contraceptive use and family planning in Kenya. It is supported by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Health ministry, NGOs and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The results were released at the second International Conference on Maternal, New-born and Child Health in Nairobi.
PMA2020 principal investigator Peter Gichangi said, “The gap between first sex and first contraceptive use among rural women is six years and 3.5 years for urban women.”
Researchers interviewed 5,876 girls and women between November-December 2017. They sampled 151 enumeration areas drawn by KNBS.
The study called for effective plans to improve access to contraceptives information for girls aged between 15-24.
It shows only 35 per cent of girls aged between 15-24 use contraceptives from public health facilities.
Public health facilities are required to offer the services to adolescents, but the girls are turned away as they are considered too young. Last year, the Government increased the contraceptive budget to Sh700 million.