Rampant drug use, abortion hit universities

By Amoto Ndiewo

A new study by the University of Nairobi (UoN) shows that there is widespread uninitiated pregnancies, abortion, abuse of drugs and alcohol amongst university students.

The study titled ‘Assessment of Sexual Representative and Mental Health Services and Practices amongst university students,’ was conducted by UoN, and it sought to establish issues affecting learners.

In the study, some 857 students at UoN were sampled. The findings reveal that 590 of the respondents (68.9 per cent) were sexually active. 65 female students reported having been pregnant at one time while on campus, out of which 36.9 per cent reported having opted for abortion.

The study was conducted in partnership with I Choose Life. Although most of the students were sexually active, the study found that almost half of the respondents, 46% had not tested for HIV in previous six months at the time of the study.

The lead researcher in the study and Director of Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative Prof. Walter Jaoko told the press that the level of unintended pregnancies amongst the students failed to match what would be expected in an educated population.

“The numbers mirror a population that knows nothing about contraceptives so it points to two possibilities: either they know but do not use it or they do not know it.

“That told us that the use of contraceptives and family planning methods are not really applied because of the proportion of pregnancies that were unintended were very high,’’ said Prof Jaoko.

Assessing the use of drugs, the report found that 40.5 per cent of the respondents were taking alcohol while 13.3 per cent were taking marijuana and one per cent was taking heroin, and cocaine.

The study comes to light at a time University of Nairobi and Mt Kenya University have launched a programme to sensitize students on sex and reproductive health education. This programme is implemented in partnership with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Swedish International Development Agency and the Swiss SDC.

In the initial rollout, it targets to reach 100,000 students at the two universities. UNESCO Regional Director Prof. Hubert Gijzen said at the UoN the programme will target students in all the ten campuses. At MKU, the programme will take place at the main campus in Thika.

The programme will be a millstone in addressing a range of health and wellbeing issues the young are faced with, including early and unintended pregnancy, Gender-based violence, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, mental health and access to accurate information on sexual and representative health and services of young people in higher and tertiary institutions.   

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