17-year-old Hellen (not her real name), a high school student in Webuye West Constituency, Bungoma County was not supposed to get pregnant.
His parents had warned her of exploitative men and she, a beautiful and bright form four student, hard sworn to overcome the challenges that had prevented many teenage girls from progressing with their education.
“I wasn’t a cheap girl. My parents had warned me against playing around with men. They told me that my future depended on education. I had worked hard and i was among the top students in our class,” Hellen told me after I assured her parents that the interview was not going bring shame to the family.
It all begun in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and schools were shut. It meant that hundreds of teenagers stayed at home, freely idling around the village.
Hellen regrets dropping her guard when she met the Boda Boda rider who normally took her to school and back. He was respectful and trustworthy and so Hellen did not read much into the invitation for a class of fruit juice at his house.
“I know what happened but I must have gone off after the drink. He had drugged me. I found myself naked in his bed two hours later. He had taken advantage of me. He was sleeping beside me and he smiled sheepishly when my bewildered eyes met his.” she narrated tearfully.
After the ordeal, she kept quiet and never told anyone. But two months later, she started having strange feelings and getting sickly and puking all the time.
“This is when my mother started questioning my behavior. I was forced to reveal what happened with the Boda Boda rider. She took me for a pregnancy test and it turned out positive. On learning that I was pregnant, the assailant disappeared” said Hellen.
Hellen sat her KCSE examinations while heavily pregnant and has since given birth to a bouncing baby boy. When the results she was pleased to have scored a B- grade. She was guaranteed of a place in the public university to pursue a course of her interest.
Such incidences of early teenage pregnancy have been rampant in Bungoma County. Boda Boda operators have been blamed for being responsible in impregnating young girls by luring them with little gifts.
A girl child rights defender Immaculate Puma blames poverty to teenage pregnancies. She says a majority parents are unable to provide basic needs for their daughters hence they are forced to seek for them elsewhere.
“Men especially boda boda riders take advantage of the girl’s poverty to molest them sexually, they end up being impregnated and a majority girls drop out of school due to such vices,” she said.
High rate of pregnancy among school girls in Bungoma County is worrying parents, the government and other education stakeholders.
The Cabinet Secretary George Magoha revealed that 43 girls from the region had babies or were expectant while sitting their examinations.
Magoha stated that 652 KCSE teenage girls were impregnated in the country and it is a worrying trend if not handled well.
In ranking the teenage pregnancies, Bungoma was followed by Meru (38), Nakuru (36), Kisii 32 while Nandi had 23 pregnant girls.
Magoha blames parents for failing to play their roles hence leaving their daughters to decide their fate in life and young men to take advantage of them.
“I am asking my officers in conjunction with the internal security to investigate and bring the culprits to book,” he said when he released last year’s examination results.
“I am also calling upon my PS Amb. Nabukwesi to set up a team to investigate the issue of early pregnancy in Bungoma, teenage girls are not women to be impregnated, they should be guided to pursue their education,” said Magoha.
The early pregnancy stories has also led Elimu Yetu coalition to move with speed and sensitize parents and teenage girls to reduce the high rate being witnessed.
According to the organization’s coordinator Elizabeth Owiti, poverty is the key point why teenage girls are falling prey to rich men in exchange for money to buy basic necessities such as sanitary pads.
Speaking in Bungoma town, Ms Owiti stated that they were empowering parents and school girls to reduce the high rate of pregnancy in the devolved unit.
“Covid-19 pandemic and poverty has led to increased cases of teenage pregnancies, parents should play their roles while their young daughters should also concentrate in their studies instead of being confused around by boda boda riders,” she warned.
According to Bungoma County woman Representative Catherine Wambilianga, over 6,000 girls have been impregnated since Covid-19 disease hit the country in March 2020.
“There are those who have given birth and there are those who were impregnated later on, we have engaged experts to guide them so that they can return back to school after delivering, they can play an important role in the society once they have acquired the needed education level, ” she said.
Wambilianga called on parents to check on their teenage girls and ensure they are safe and contended to avoid being lured around by young rich men.
“I am also asking young teenage girls to be very strict with their lives, young men will impregnate you and run away once they realize their mistakes, don’t be easily cheated around, sex is sweet only when you are employed and working with a huge salary,” she warned.
The Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) in collaboration with Women in News organization is working with journalist to highlight such untold social problems.