By: Annakleta Haikera
An 11-year-old girl is one of 860 schoolchildren who fell pregnant in the Kavango East region in 2021.
In 2020, Kavango East had 554 teenage pregnancies.
The Kavango East is second to the Ohangwena region regarding teenage pregnancy, which recorded over 1200 cases.
The highest number of learner pregnancies were recorded in Rundu, Mukwe, Sambyu, Ndiyona, Shinyugwe, and Kambimba. The Kavango East director of education, Fanuel Kapapero, said adolescent pregnancies are a global problem but often occur in poorer and marginalised communities.
Kapapero said many girls face considerable pressure to marry early and become mothers.
According to the figures, the Rundu district recorded the most pregnancies among learners (366), most reported in the first and second semesters.
He also said teenage pregnancies increase when girls are denied the right to decide their sexual and reproductive health and well-being.
“Girls must be able to make their own decisions about their bodies and futures and have access to appropriate healthcare services and education.
“Some parents don’t even want to talk about sex in their homes. Children have a lot of energy compared to grownups, and they want to experience everything,” Kapapero said.
“We sent a girl to Rukonga Vision School. She fell pregnant; apparently, there’s a boyfriend at home waiting for her to go for the holidays. She now has three kids, but she is brilliant. She has now completed her school.”
He added that schools have the advantage of counsellors and lifeskills teachers.
“We also have a lot of programmes. We train teachers to be counsellors. Unfortunately, it is not making any dent in the statistics we are getting.
“I want to send a clear message that all teachers should be counsellors. Maybe this way, we will reduce teenage pregnancy.”
He said the situation got worse during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Kapapero further advised parents to do their best in educating young girls at home and helping them to understand the danger of society and teenage pregnancy.
“I saw it during the holidays. If you drive during the night, you find children in bars and on the street. It’s like they are on their own. If you bring a child on earth, you are responsible for the child, including protecting from being exposed to men. Because if we don’t support our kids financially while in school, the others are there.”
Martha Kahonzo, who became a mother at 14, said being a teenage mother was not easy as she faced criticism from both her family members and her peers at school since she had great potential.
Kahonzo, now 18, is training to be a teacher.
“My friends influenced me. I also wanted a good life back then because my friends had money. My parents could not afford anything, so I was sent to the hostel with little guidance from my parents. I wanted to be financially supported. I was pregnant early.
“The man who impregnated me was married. I still remember how I suffered from my baby, no father and not even parent support, because they told me they wanted what was best for me, but I turned out to be pregnant. I want to advise all teenagers to choose their friends wisely and don’t be a victim of peer pressure. When you need help, talk to your teachers or maybe a pastor to get help.”
According to Kavango East activist Frans Moyo, analysis to determine the cause of the high rate of pregnancies among pupils revealed that many young people have changed their social lives.
He said that teenage pregnancy was not a concern in the old days as it is now.
The number of teenage pregnancies in Kavango East rises every year.
“It’s more of influencing each other. They spend less time at their homes and more time in streets or clubs or just being at music shows. Alcohol has become their daily routine. Even at schools, girls smoke dagga at a younger age, and they don’t care what will happen to their bodies when under the influence,” Moyo said.
He further said that many teenagers want to experience everything early and easily become prey to older men who want “sweet 16s.”
“Then these men give them a lot of money that parents don’t give them at home. The next thing you will see is she’s expecting a baby, and then this baby will be blamed to be from a young boy, while it’s not true.
“The reality is that some male teachers are involved in these teenage pregnancies, and these are some of the things that the community is trying to run away from and hide. This type of mentality must end and be put to display.”
Hendrina Nujoma, an activist in Kavango West, said that the two Kavango regions do not have enough recreation centres for children.
“If these kids can go off the streets and start doing something for themselves, fewer teenage pregnancies will be recorded. We still have parents who believe that children should start making babies at a very young age.”
She added, “Some teenagers do not have enough support from both parents. A single mother tends to send this young girl to look for money when something is needed. I feel schools are not doing enough to help these kids. They talk and leave everything to the lifeskills teachers. Some of these life skills teachers tell these kids not to fall pregnant. They don’t get involved. They are not active enough in these programs. Only a few schools put teenage pregnancy into action. They don’t help prevent teenage pregnancy.”