By Rev. Jan A. Scholtz
THIS article seeks to give an overview of what causes the increase of teenage pregnancies in Namibia. The increase in number of teenagers who become pregnant each year, especially in Namibia, has become a topic of serious concern within the whole society.
Different sources have quoted alarming statistics: in 2007, there were 1465 pregnancy-related school drop-outs in Namibia. Just five months into this school year, the Oshana and Ohangwena regions have both recorded 232 teenage pregnancies (The Namibian of 31 May 2018); the // Kharas region recorded during the period from January to March 2018 a total of 773 registered pregnancies of which 123 (16 percent) were classified as teenage pregnancies. In Kunene region, 42 teenage pregnancies were recorded in 2017 below the 15 year age group. The numbers are likely to substantially underestimate the true situation.
The phenomenon has become widely spread, that it’s now a social problem. When examined closely, it looks as if there is no single answer to account for the rising teenage pregnancy. Rather, it becomes apparent that there many interacting variables that may be taken into account. This ugly phenomenon has generated a lot of concerns and we are very eager to find the causes and effects in the increase of the teenage pregnancy, since girls, in their teens, are getting pregnant frequently and facing many problems where health complications are the most serious ones. Given these alarming statistics, the Education Sector Pregnancy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy was signed on the 12 April 2012. Six guiding principles govern this policy.
1. Right to Education: this is a constitutional right protecting the affected child from any form of discrimination on any basis (sex, pregnancy, parenthood, etc.), 2. Prevention: the policy considers inappropriate any punishment of the pregnant learner but encourages any other appropriate preventive measures, e.g. family planning provision, etc.; 3. Information: sexual and reproductive matters are to be brought into student education to enable them to make informed decisions; 4. Respect of the right to freedom of choice for both boys and girls, respect of individual’s dignity; 5. Support the pregnant learners to complete their education taking in account the health and welfare of the newborn; 6. Respect of culture and family: the policy is meant to be flexible to maximize educational opportunities for pregnant learners and learner-parents, allowing different family and cultural values to determine the timing and manners in which learners take advantage of the opportunities offered.
Although Namibia does have policies in place on the topic, many variables may be pointed as a cause of teenage pregnancies. The decline in the country’s economy, with a high rate of unemployment and generally high cost of living resulting in poverty can be seen as a major factor. Though the cost of education is not a burden on parents, being subsidized by government, some parents still fail in their social duties. Most cases, the most vulnerable is the girl child who falls victim of this ugly phenomenon by falling prey to meet their demand.A study by UNICEF on Knowledge, attitudes, Practice and Behavior published in August 2006, demonstrated that 40 percent of teenage pregnancies resulted from forced sex.
It is worth mentioning that some regions seem to face challenges implementing this policy according to the Namibian dated 5 June 2018.
As stated in Sacker and Neuhoff that, “although many teenage pregnancies occur out of wedlock, a vast majority of teenage mothers are married by their early twenties.”
Some parents force their teenage daughters into early marriage before they become psychologically mature to face parenthood. Early marriage leads to early child bearing, continuous pregnancies and resulting in large families, deepening the cycle of poverty. Lack of complete parental care including mono-parental household is a crucial factor adversely influencing the behavior of children.
This general agreement of opinion emphasizes the importance of the role of the parent in the formative years of a child. Children, as dependent beings in all respects (childhood days), have the right to be given the right kind of instructions and parental supervision and guidance if they should behave in socially acceptable ways of the society. Failure to give them both proper guidance and control is, psychologically a form of grave deprivation comparable, in some ways, to lack of love and affection of the child. And if such deprivation is not looked into in time, or at all, it will lead the child to ugly behavior that may make the child become deviant in the society.
Cohen (1955) states that “the world outside the family is a crucial factor in the deviant behavior.” The school is part of the environment. There is a tendency for children to be influenced in what they observe, smoking, alcohol, drug use, fighting, foul language, etc. Friends can influence others depending on the type of environment. If a child lives in a well-organized environment and goes to a school where deviant behavior is not seen or allowed, that child will have decent friends. Mays (1954) believes that “togetherness is an important factor in human development, the very desire to associate to other children and to own their respect and affection can lead to deviant behavior”.
Effects of teenage pregnancies
Pregnancy and motherhood are the major reason that some learners leave school. Most of the female drop-outs from school are as a result of pregnancy, marriage and economic status of parents.
The teenagers ability to return back to the school after childbirth and catch-up will be difficult.
Teenagers who postpone childbirth have greater self-motivation and support/help in the family and peer group. For teenage mothers, family backgrounds, place a unique and ever important role in the school completion. Those girls from more advanced families, few siblings, a father, with formal education, and intact familyhave a better chance of being supported emotionally. In light of this, a good starting point is an integrated committee comprising of the ministries such as youth and sport, education, health, gender, private organizations, to draw up a plan to face jointly the problem. Such a plan should include a well-thought out family law based on the African tradition of the family and the child.
Rev. Jan A. Scholtz is the chairperson of the Kharas regional council.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015