County officials raise alarm on the number of teenage mothers. In 2018, about 17,000 teenage pregnancies were registered in Kilifi County, a huge menace. Most of these girls drop out of school. “They feel shy when they get pregnant and drop out because their fellow students laugh at them”, says Elpinah Jembe, a teacher at the dressmaking department of Mkwajuni Vocational Training Centre.
“I had to sell cassava while pregnant to earn income…”
Life has not been a bed of roses for Amina (name changed and photo hidden) who is firstborn of eight siblings. She became pregnant in 2012 when she was in class four after getting herself involved with a standard seven boy. This devastated her as her parents are casual labourers and her having a baby meant additional expenses for the family.
Amina’s parents sent her to the boy’s family which forced the young man here referred to as Katana to drop out of school too so as to look after his young family. This did not go on for long as Katana asked Amina to go back to her home for he was no longer capable of taking care of her.
‘’When I was six months pregnant, I decided to sell cassava so as to earn money to look after my unborn baby.’’ She stammers. ‘’My classmates would laugh at me whenever I ran into them and this made me feel so sad.’’
Amina’s chance: the “Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu” project
Two years later, Amina was called by the class teacher and asked to re-enrol to school as the baby was all grown. In 2014, she joined class four. It was uncomfortable for her at first but after a while learnt to adapt. She persevered and stayed in school throughout her four years until she completed her primary school education.
‘’I was overjoyed when Madam Sarah called and informed me that I had been selected to benefit from the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project which is being implemented by Kesho Kenya.’’ She was asked to select the course of her choice and she chose dressmaking. The project bought her school uniform and paid her school fees for TVET.
14,445 girls benefit from WWW
Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (Let our girls succeed) project is supported by DFID under the Girls Education Challenge fund. Its main aim to enable 14,445 girls in Kilifi County who are in primary school to complete their current phase of education, achieve improved learning outcome and transition successfully to a productive and positive next phase. The girls will gain skills, qualification and confidence required to take control of their lives. To achieve these objectives, Kesho Kenya is working together with 55 primary schools and four TVET institutions in Kilifi County.
The project focusses on three points of transition: from primary school to secondary school, from primary school to an alternative learning pathway and from having dropped out of school back into catch-up class in primary school or an alternative learning pathway.
Advising young mothers to re-enter school
Amina wishes she could travel back in time to change everything that happened to her but that’s not possible. She tries to advise her fellow young mothers to re-enter school in order for them to have a second chance to change their livelihoods. “Although I have not yet grasped all concepts in my course, I am working hard to learn as much as I can to be among the best dressmakers in my region.”
‘’Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project sends me monthly cash transfers that provide for my upkeep in school and look after my child. I am so grateful to the WWW project as were it not for them, I would never have re-entered leave alone staying in school in the first place.’’
“Young mothers learnt their lessons in life”
Teacher Elpinah Jembe says Amina is very hardworking and shares with other students of her motherhood experience. She states that it is very unusual as others shy off and choose to only keep it to themselves and their family
‘’Young mothers have experienced life and have learnt life lessons so they tend to concentrate on their studies but for other teenage girls, they give me a headache as they want to explore the world. ‘’
“Thank you so much to WWW”, TVET teacher says and requests the team to talk often to the girls in the institution in order for them to understand how they can benefit from the project.
Difficulties getting the girls to open up
Catch up tutors feel like the main challenge teenage girls face is peer pressure and they need so much counselling and mentorship. Speaking to one of the catch-up centre tutor, Sophy Mbaru, she states how she had difficulties getting the girls to open up at first. She, therefore, had to befriend them; tell them her life experience which they could relate to. She serves as a counsellor and mentor to the girls and encourages them not to give up their dreams as they are still valid.
’’Catch up centers under the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project”, she says, “will be of great help to our girls as instead of them staying home idle and giving up on their dreams, they get to attend classes and where we guide and counsel them into going back to schools and continuing with their studies.”
When young men take advantage of the girls
The tutor states that young mothers are majorly impregnated by boyfriends who are almost their age mates. The girls don’t understand how they get into romantic relationships. For most of them, they are normally sent home due to school fee arrears, stay idle at their homes and young men take advantage.
After impregnating them, they abandon them and refuse to take responsibility. Sophy Mbaru says that others engage with Bodaboda guys who offer them 20 bob for lunch, drop them off to school and back home. The girls enjoy the favours not knowing that they will have to pay back. Others are lured by older men who provide financial support to the girls for sexual gain.
In her eyes, it is also important to create more opportunities for more young mothers to join the catch-up classes as there are lots of them in the communities. “Most of them are willing to join but got no means to develop themselves through their skills.”
Life beyond motherhood
How many of the young mothers are courageous enough to re-enter school after becoming pregnant? Most of them have huge aspirations that are shuttered the moment they drop out of school. Only few who undergo counselling and mentorship see that there is life beyond motherhood. Thanks to projects like WWW, that one can re-enter school and still attain their life dreams.
Note; Photo of the young mother whose name has been changed has not been used in this article due to privacy reasons