Teenage pregnancies spike during lockdown

By Tracy Tafirenyika

ABOUT 97 girls have dropped out of school in the Kavango East region after falling pregnant during the lockdown period which began in March.

The Kavango East regional education director Pontianus Musore told Confidente that the alarming rate of school dropouts and teenage pregnancies has prompted the education ministry to go on a sensitisation campaign to warn schoolgirls on the dangers of engaging in sexual activity prematurely. 

“Some of the common reasons that we have observed in the region leading to the contribution of teenage pregnancies during Covid-19 could be that, most of the learners were lacking control and support at home.

“The ministry has also come up with strategies to decrease teenage pregnancies in the country among learners by introducing health clubs in schools and meeting with learners, both boys and girls. We have sensitised meetings with learner’s parents through Fawena and also community meetings on sexual reproductive health,” he said

Musore furthermore explained that the high rate of teenage pregnancies has a negative effect on the learners’ education.

“Teenage pregnancies among learners has a detrimental effect on their school attendance, academic performance, emotional behaviour and relationships between the pregnant girls and their peers and educators,” he said.

Ministry of Education Executive Director, Sanet Steenkamp said that lack of access to sexual reproductive health services is one of the major contributing factors to the rising rate of teenage pregnancies.

“Lack of access to sexual reproductive health services for example family planning services, contraceptives, learners not engaged constructively during the lockdown period and also possibly lack of parental guidance due to cultural beliefs.

“The issue of Kavango region is that it has always had a high number of teenage pregnancies and is also attributed to cultural beliefs. Our main concern is to provide education for every child in Namibia that is why we have the preventative and the management policies to guide and how to go about it. It is not only Kavango region with the high pregnancy rate of learners but other regions as well.

Steenkamp furthermore stated that the Ministry of Education has come up with strategies to address pregnancies among learners through policies, curricula and programmes implementation at all school levels.

“Capacity development of teachers and education officials plays critical centre stage in ensuring that the necessary knowledge is acquired by the learners enabling them to avoid becoming pregnant while schooling and one of these policies is the sector policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy.

“Parents must address sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues at home, as research has shown that SRH education has a big impact on the reduction of learner pregnancy and other policies include National Policy on HIV and AIDS for the education sector and inclusive education policies.” 

Steenkamp told Confidente that the problem of pregnancy amongst schoolgirls is not unique to Namibia but also a major concern in many countries.

“Learners pregnancy has been cited as a constraint in the elimination of gender disparities in education hence the need to improve the educational right of girls who became pregnant is also based on part on the knowledge that this will affect the fate of their children and future generations. Children of less educated mothers are unlikely to complete school themselves, meaning that they have fewer opportunities to better their lives.

“This is a call to everybody in the community because these children do not fall pregnant by themselves; they are impregnated by adult men who should be taking responsibilities for their actions. It is disempowering our children leading to more dropouts,” she said.

In 2019 from September to December, Namibia recorded 2 943 teenage pregnancies; Ohangwena being the highest with 575, Omusati 470, Kavango East 394, Oshikoto 290, Kavango West 216, Kunene 204, Zambezi 156, Oshana 150, Otjozondjupa 134, Khomas 122, Omaheke 92, Erongo 66, Hardap 38 and

//Kharas being the lowest with 36.