KEN LUSAKA: Come, let us reason together on teenage pregnancies

When a subject of public debates finds its way Into the parentheses of lamentations, the best way to tackle it is to do what reformist politician Kenneth Matiba advised over three decades ago: Return to reason.

My recent observations on the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies in the country have elicited sharp criticism and condemnation in equal measure from a cross section of Kenyans.

My attempts to clarify the sentiments I expressed during an interview on a national TV station have not helped to assuage the situation.

It is against this background that I submit myself to verse 1:18 in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Bible that reads:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though your sins may be as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

My views might have appeared as scarlet to some people and as crimson to others. In whichever way they may have been perceived, by my fellow Kenyans, I elect to take the route of remorse and then invite my compatriots to stick their necks out so that we can collectively deliberate this matter.

My point about teenage pregnancies was that we, especially those of us in leadership spaces, have an obligation to look for solutions on this subject instead of merely lamenting and hurling brickbats from a safe distance without doing anything about it.

I argued that in the days of yore, our fore parents had various structured mechanisms of handling this challenge and vouched for a revisitation of the approaches that might still be useful today.

I did not call for denying pregnant girls education.

After all, that would be against the law. As a father of a girl, a husband to a woman and the son of a woman, it would be ridiculous for me to come up with such a ridiculous suggestion. I advocated for stringent deterrent measures. Otherwise, my efforts in empowering the girl child in all my public life is there for all to see.

In every part of Kenya, our ancestors had well  devised ways of handling this dicey topic. At the adolescent stage, the youngsters were sat down by their elders, especially grandparents, to take them through the motions of life and how to confront the hurdles at every segment.

That no longer happens. In the years gone by, our schools used to subject female learners to  pregnancy tests on every first day of a new term.

That encouraged discipline and control among the youths. Unfortunately, it no longer happens.

Our African traditions as well as majority of our religious denominations have for years on end insisted that sex should strictly be for married, adult couples.

Again, that is no longer the case. Unfortunately. Yet the statistics are not only loudly startling but also both staggering and embarrassing. Indeed appalling.

Not long ago, the Ministry of Health revealed that one out of five adolescents in the country today is already a mother or is pregnant.

Last year, data from the Kenya Demographic Health Information Service showed that the country recorded 113, 821 cases of adolescent pregnancies in only five months, with 6, 110 of them being between the age of 10 and 14 years while 104, 711 were between the age of 15 and 19 years.

Yet that was only half of the figure that was registered the previous year at 260, 711 compared to the 316, 189 recorded in 2021 and 339, 549 in 2020.

I have some spine-chilling examples in my county of Bungoma  where only last year over 1000 adolescent pregnancies were documented with notoriety being recorded in one school with 53 victims.

Yes. This happened in a school. Not a maternity ward of a referral level 5 hospital.

What is more, some of these teenage pregnancies come with the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS:  a double jeopardy that these young minds and souls have to endure the rest of their lives. It is not a matter for anyone to fumble with.

It is against this background that I invite anyone with any useful idea to join this conversation so that as a country we can go beyond whining and apportioning blame at every corner and instead find a lasting solution to this menace.

Plan International states that Teenage pregnancies are triggered by a variety of factors, among them poverty, lack of information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, poor access to services, socio-cultural pressure from families and  communities to marry, sexual violence,  forced early marriages both as a cause and a consequence and illiteracy..

Early this month, I hosted a county stakeholders meeting on teenage pregnancies and came up with far-reaching resolutions, some of which I have elected to share in this write-up.

We agreed that  guiding and counselling centres be set up at every sub-county level, encourage spirituality in learning institutions, encourage mentorship programmes in schools, re-introduction of pregnancy tests in institutions of learning for girls, sensitise learners on the vagaries of STDs, STIs and HIV/Aids, teachers trade unions like KNUT and KUPPET to stop protecting perpetrators whenever one of their members has been identified as a perpetrator, head teachers should not arbitrarily send away learners from school for school fees without minding the surrounding environment, bars and night clubs should be located very far from learning institutions, encourage corrective parenting and parental responsibility and schools should be adequately guarded, secure means of transport for learners engaged in School, social and academic activities

These suggestions are not cast in stone. There certainly are many more out there.

I invite all these ideas on the table so that we can find a national approach to this matter.

The one thing we must not do is to run away from this menace. We have a monster in our midst that we must slay.

Let us not develop cold feet, look the other side or bury our heads in the sand.

We must confront it. Yes, come now. Let us reason together.

The author is the Governor of Bungoma County and the immediate former Speaker of the Senate. Email: Email:

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