NAIROBI, Kenya May 12 – The number of pregnant girls who sat for last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations was increasingly high, a worrying trend attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced schools to close for a year.
While at home between March 2020 to January 2021, thousands of school girls were impregnated, with some opting out of school when learners resumed school in January 2021.
But there are 652 of them who were determined to complete school, and even sat for the KCSE examinations whose results were released last week.
“We have noted the number of candidates sitting the examinations upon delivery went up in 2020,” said Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha when he released the results, “this shows that the long school closure due to COVID-19 may have driven our learners into many temptations at a time most households were facing enormous challenges.”
The number of pregnant girls who sat for the examinations in 2020 increased almost three times, compared to 282 in 2019.
““I was instructed to track these girls and make sure they are not loitering around and being cheated with sweets and what have you,” he said.
The Kenya Health Information Management System said there were more than 170,000 teen pregnancies recorded last year alone, when schools were closed.
And according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), the most vulnerable group is aged between 15 and 19.
The Education Cabinet Secretary is now urging parents to be more close to their children, particularly girls who are more vulnerable in the society, wth the rise in Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
“I plead to my daughters and granddaughters who received their results that as they wait to join Form 1 in July, let them have something to do. Let parents help them,” Magoha said.
Statistics released in April by the Ministry of Public Service and Gender show that 5,009 cases were recorded between January and December 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry’s Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said the cases represented an increase of 1,411 compared to cases reported in 2019. Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kiambu counties accounted for most of the cases.
“The findings of the study established that the number of Gender-Based Violence cases reported between January and June 2020 had an increase of 92 percent compared to previous year same period,” Kobia said.
Winnie Syombua, a Gender Lead at the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a Non-Governmental Organisation that promotes human rights through journalism said the figures could be much higher, and has urged the government and other players involved to do more to protect girls and women.
“Gender-Based Violence should be declared a national scourge, based on the numbers we see today,” she said, ”GBV destroys the recipient to the core, it maims and kills and worse of all, it has become normalized in our society. There is need to put in place both structural and legal measures to address it.”
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has assured of the government’s commitment to tame the vice, and even directed local administrators to work closely with police and the clergy.
And in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive that no school girl should be denied a chance to complete their education due to pregnancy, the Education Cabinet Secretary said all girls who get pregnant while in school will always get re-admission.
“There is no girl who will be locked out of school because of pregnancy,” he said, “every girl deserves the chance to complete school.”