OPINION: National exams should not be a do or die experience for pregnant learners
During the ongoing and the just-concluded and KCSE and KCPE exams respectively, there have been many reports of pregnant girls sitting.
This is simply unacceptable, we are letting our young people down; we should not pressure young pregnant learners who are almost due to sit for exams in schools or in hospitals, and clearly most of these cases are defilement as they are minors. Why are we still burying our heads? These girls are going through a lot of injustices!
Despite the commendable return-to-school policy by the Ministry of Education, which allows pregnant girls to stay in or go back to school after delivery, more must be done to stem the flow of adolescent and teenage girls. Adolescent and teenage pregnant girls should not be forced to sit in for their exams while still in a state of trauma because of the sexual violence that they went through.
Unexpected pregnancy changes the trajectory of a girl’s life and leaves a girl with long-lasting physical, socioeconomic and psychological ramifications. These high rates of unplanned pregnancies can be reduced by equipping our children with age-appropriate and need-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, better known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Most of these cases are a result of defilement and rape for minors and adults respectively. We have heard and seen so many cases in media of pregnant girls having a lot of difficulties in exam rooms as they attempt to do their exams when almost due with pregnancy.
Speaking about sex should not be seen as taboo, or like it will increase sexual behaviors and activities among young people. Sex education is not only about sex, but also social and health issues that young people are facing.
In fact, comprehensive sex and sexuality education greatly encourages abstinence but also recognizes that human sexuality is a perfectly natural part of life, therefore it seeks to give students the knowledge, attitude, skills, and values to make appropriate and healthy choices about their sexuality and lifestyle so that they do not go through unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, HIV etc.
Who does an exam while they are in a hospital bed? While their hands are fully bandaged? While they are experiencing labor pains? While they are still crying from the experience of rape and defilement? The ministries of health and education should do better.
They, together with the local administration – regional and county commissioners – should work together to ensure the safety of all adolescents first and prepare supplementary exams for the learners as soon as they are well by also fully operationalizing the return to school policy.
By Alvin Mwangi, a sexual reproductive health and rights advocate at the Network of Adolescents and Youth of Africa (NAYA Kenya). Twitter: @alvinmwangi254