Two former Civic leaders and a clergyman have opposed threats by the government to arrest parents of expectant examination candidates.
A former civic leader at the defunct Nakuru Municipal Council, William Ating’a and his Nakuru County Council Counterpart, Joel Nyandieka however, backed a directive by the Ministry of Education to crack down on rogue police officers, administrators and parents who were covering known culprits behind the culture of impregnating school girls.
The two who were talking in Nakuru accompanied by Reverend Kelvin Ochondo of Church of God Ministries said a blanket condemnation of affected parents would aggravate the situation and mask the real culprits.
“Thorough investigations should be conducted before a parent is arrested. No parent especially a mother will approve and condone her daughter’s pregnancy. Virtually all these pregnancies happen without the parents’ knowledge” said Ating’a.
Nyandieka observed that poverty was to blame for increased cases of teenage pregnancies as older men were luring girls with gifts and money, mostly without the knowledge of their parents.
“No sane parent can painstakingly bring up a child and condone her being put in the family way when she is about to sit for her examination.Some of the culprits are wayward teachers, rogue boda boda operators and sometimes fellow students. Obviously they impregnate our girls without parental consent” noted Nyandieka.
Pastor Ochondo stated that a majority of parents, especially mothers were protective of their children and should not be generalized as conspirators in their teenage daughters’ pregnancies.
“It is indeed true that some administrators, parents and law enforcement officers have been sweeping well known cases of defilement under the carpet. These are the crooks that the government should go for. Most parents whose candidate daughters are either pregnant or have given birth are deeply distressed and annoyed” he affirmed.
In Bomet County, two girls gave birth. In Meru, a candidate sat her exam in hospital after delivering an underweight baby.
During the KCPE exam period that ended on Thursday last week, about 30 candidates countrywide sat their exam in hospitals after giving birth.
A report released by the Children’s Affairs Department, Kilifi county has reported the highest number of teen pregnancies in the country — 13,624 cases in the past one year.
Estimates from the 2016 assessment by the ministry show that about 10 per cent of girls drop out of school due to pregnancies.
The Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed has asked quality assurance and standards officers at the Ministry to investigate the cases of pregnancies among school girls.
She said the ministry is alarmed by the increased cases of teenage births that were reported in the just-concluded KCPE exams.
Some girls were also rescued while cohabiting with men.
On Thursday, Education Principal Secretary, Belio Kipsang warned that parents of candidates who gave birth during exams could be arrested for ‘covering up for the pregnancies’.
Speaking in Nyeri when he distributed the last exam papers, Kipsang said the government will crack down on kangaroo courts that cover up the pregnancies.
“One of the issues that came out strongly during the exam period is teenage pregnancies. These girls are underage and thus we cannot talk of consent. It is actually defilement,” Dr. Kipsang said.
The Education Ministry has termed the situation a security concern, vowing to crack the whip on those involved.
“This is a question of assault, which makes it a security threat. We shall go to those villages because we know there are places where people make local arrangements. We shall arrest those involved, including the parents who engage in these backroom deals, compromising the future of their children,” the PS said.
He noted that police officers and administrators in areas where the cases are reported will also be held responsible for abetting sexual assault on school girls.
By Anne Mwale