ONGWEDIVA – Education officials in two northern regions said school-going girls are impregnated by cattle herders, taxi drivers and ‘sugar daddies’ with access to cash as these girls also want access to cellphones, new clothes and alcohol.
They also blame parents for accepting bribes from the culprits, and being nonchalant about early pregnancies.
Ohangwena education director Isak Hamatwi said while the numbers have reduced, it remains a huge concern.
In 2022, Ohangwena recorded 832 (1 260 in 2021) teenage pregnancies, while the Oshikoto region recorded 567 (1 294 in 2021) learners falling pregnant.
Pregnancy in young girls is considered a high health risk because of the additional burden imposed by reproduction on a still-growing body.
Hamatwi said Oshela Secondary School is the school with the most pregnancies with 35 learners, followed by Ponhofi Secondary School with 23, while Ondobe Secondary School recorded 22.
“Many learners at secondary schools are victims of pregnancy because of peer pressure. Some escape from hostels to access boyfriends,” he decried the state of affairs.
He pointed to a growing transactional sex trend which not only puts the girls’ progress in school at risk, but also their health.
Hamatwi reiterated that the number is huge as the majority of the culprits involved in impregnating learners are cattle herders, taxi drivers and ‘sugar daddies’.
Poverty and a lack of parental care are the main contributing factors to teenage pregnancies in the Ohangwena region.
“Some parents encourage their daughters to fall pregnant for economic reasons, to have grandchildren, and also to receive bribes from the cattle herders or cuca shop owners,” he continued.
These are the people who have cash instantly available.
The educationalist urged parents to discourage girls from falling pregnant at an early age because it will have a negative impact on their performance at school, and will further contribute to a cycle of poverty for families.
Also speaking to New Era was Oshikoto education director Aletta Eises, who said the number of teenage pregnancies decreased in 2022 because her directorate moved to empower girls with knowledge through various programmes, and helped those who fall pregnant to not miss out on school.
She noted that over the past three years, the region trained 325 Life Skills teachers in counselling, learner support and a safe school framework.
This is in line with the prevention and management of the learner pregnancy policy of the ministry, as no child should be denied education.
This programme also covers issues like gender-based violence, rape and molestation.
However, Eises expressed concern over older men who impregnate schoolgirls.
According to school principals who spoke to this publication, a lack of parental guidance and peer pressure, especially in secondary schools, are the biggest contributing factors to high teenage pregnancies in education.
Moreover, they said learners are tempted when they see their peers possessing material things such as cell phones and nice clothes, and that drives them to also transact sex for money and these communication devices.
The principal of David Shingo Combined School Hanna Hashipala said learners
who are renting have exposure to boyfriends such as taxi drivers, because they need money to buy food and cosmetics.
She said her school doesn’t have a hostel and it is near shebeens, where learners go after school.
This school recorded 14 pregnancies last year.
Hashipala added that many girls cite the absence of parents at home.
“We are implementing various programmes at our school in terms of the prevention of learner pregnancy, like My Future is My Choice, Window of Hope
and other health programmes,” she elucidated.
In addition, Omungwelume Secondary School principal George Nanghanda echoed that it is very important that schools implement various programmes to educate school girls.
Last year, his school recorded 12 pregnancies, while in 2021, 19 learners fell pregnant.
He said the school used to conduct one-on-one engagements with girls regarding added responsibility, and how to make sure they get time to study while they also have a responsibility towards their babies.