Pregnancy among teenagers, especially girls in the junior high schools throughout the country, is getting out of control and must be the concern of parents, government and society at large. Every year, during the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) season, some of the female candidates are found to be pregnant.
While some of the pregnancies are in the embryonic stages, others are fully developed, with some of the girls giving birth after one of the papers – especially if it happens to be Mathematics or Science.
The number of pregnant teenagers outside the school cannot just be imagined as it is a pride for young girls in some rural communities to have babies, even before the adolescent years. It is fashionable to become a teenage mother in those communities, unmindful of the ridicule that goes with it.
In the recent BECE which saw 422,946 candidates from 562 public and private JHSs across the country writing the exams, more than 200 girls were reported to be heavily pregnant. This figure undoubtedly represented only the courageous girls who owned up as being pregnant. The figure could be more in the lower classes.
Nabdam District in the Northern Region registered 43 pregnant candidates during this year’s BECE, while Techiman and Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo Region recorded 34 and 1 would-be mothers respectively.
Agona West in the Central Region recorded 10, while 2 deaf and dumb candidates had also been put in the family way at Jamasi in the Sekyere South District of the Ashanti Region. In the Volta Region 10,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded at the various health centres in 2012 alone – a development which had been worrisome to many a parent.
Not very long ago, an adolescent girl who got pregnant in the second semester of a diploma programme naturally dropped out of school. During the naming ceremony, the aggrieved and disappointed mother of the girl named the newly-born granddaughter, ‘Diploma,’ to register her frustration. Such is the case of many parents throughout the country.
Unfortunately, most parents do not understand teenagers; some churches do not know the difference between the teenager and the youth and the nation is totally confused about placement of teens in society, and therefore do nothing in that regard.
A number of factors account for teenage pregnancy in society. As a result of high cost of accommodation in the country, most parents share single rooms with their grown-up children who are often exposed to scenes of carnality – an act they go out to indulge their peers in.
The inability of some parents to feed or cater for their children is another major factor. In their desperate search for the basic necessities of life, these innocent girls usually fall prey to unscrupulous male adults or peers who impregnate them (girls).
While some of the girls are victims of ‘voodoo’ powers and other charms, others are encouraged by their equally young mothers to go out and ‘look for something for the house’.
The fact cannot be denied that some of the girls are morally rotten to the extent that no amount of parental care can reform them. Just imagine a teenage girl challenging her head teacher for referring to her as a ‘small girl.’
The anti-AIDS slogan of ‘If it’s not on it’s not in’ means nothing to them. As a result, they decide to adopt what is known in the local parlance as ‘Mongu Park’ – that is having unprotected sex.
A Deputy Director of Education was recently reported to have prescribed tougher punishment for pregnant school girls. This is neither here nor there. What about the teachers or the school mates who put the girls in the family way? What about the wicked fathers and step fathers who push their daughters to ‘chase’ those rich men in the communities for a cup of rice and a bottle of cooking oil? What must be done to the bad boys who gang-rape the poor little girls?
In the days of yore when the upbringing of children was a community responsibility, it was a taboo to see teenagers at wake-keepings and other unacceptable places. In those days, parents had the right to discipline another man’s child for any wrongdoing. But in today’s world, who are you to touch someone’s child?
If you dare take up the challenge even as a school teacher, be sure to see the parent of the erring child in boxer shots in your house or school early in the morning to take you through some rudiments of boxing or judo.
There are many dangers associated with teenage pregnancies. The girls risk additional medical concerns due to their not-well-developed pelvis, according to medical doctors.
They are also victims of social stigma, which often leads to criminal abortions.
The Way Forward
Teenage pregnancy at any level has become a headache for government and parents alike. It will be proper if the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection enforce a rigorous sex education in the academic curriculum for all the children to appreciate the need to guard against unwanted pregnancies..
Efforts must be made by the state to reduce such unplanned pregnancies to improve maternal health as well as to keep teenage girls in school to enable them to prepare adequately to take up responsible roles in future.
If teen pregnancies are in most cases attributed to defilement, the question that needs to be asked is: Why are civil society, the Department of Social Welfare, parents – especially mothers – doctors and midwives looking on unconcerned?
Educational facilities such as libraries, community centers, youth counseling centers and other facilities, should be set up particularly in the rural areas so that the youth will be enlightened on the effects of teenage pregnancies.
Churches that organize rampant ‘all-night services’ should make sure the young boys and girls go home after the all-night vigil.
Finally, male teachers who order the young girls to prepare food or even wash for them, should stop the practice in order to avoid any temptation.
As to whether men who rape or impregnate teenage girls should be castrated, it is subject for debate