Rwanda’s recent spate of teenage pregnancies is our fault

On Monday The New Times newspaper reported that a ‘pregnancy scandal’ had engulfed Groupe Scolaire Nsinda, a rural Rwamagana school,

GS Nsinda school is in the spotlight over teenage pregnancies, some linked to teachers. The New Times: Stephen Rwembeho

GS Nsinda school is in the spotlight over teenage pregnancies, some linked to teachers. The New Times: Stephen Rwembeho

leaving the school without a headmaster and in uproar. Twenty-six girls were found pregnant. Twenty-six! Back when I was in high school, the entire student community would become ‘excited’ about a single pregnancy rumor, so I can’t even begin to understand what is going through the minds of the rest of the students.

Heads have rolled and the blame game has started.

“I discovered high level negligence by the head teacher. His suspension was long overdue,” Francois Ndayambaje, the chairperson of the parents committee said. The Chairperson then went on to blame the teenagers parents, saying that they weren’t “strict enough”.

One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the teenage pregnancy issue began in 2011. “No one cared and yet this school is just a stones throw away from the District Education Offices,” the teacher said.

The State Minister in-charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Mathias Harebamungu, admitted that although he had received reports about the incidents, he blamed district leaders for not acting fast to address the issue. “It is unfortunate that local leaders took all this long to take action,” the Minister said.

“It is disgusting to hear what happened to the girls. I want to see to it that culprits are brought to book,” the Governor of the Eastern Province, Odette Uwamariya, said.

I can understand why parents, teachers, ministers and governors are up in arms. It’s shocking that students, ranging from 14-17 years of age, have been discovered in the ‘family way’. There are hard questions that the suspended headmaster (along with his entire staff) must answer. However, we mustn’t get caught up in this; we must also have a debate on our children’s sexual education. Or lack thereof.

Save the Children found that, annually, 13 million children are born to women under age 20 worldwide, more than 90% in developing countries. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of mortality among women between the ages of 15 and 19 in such areas

Save the Children found that, annually, 13 million children are born to women under age 20 worldwide, more than 90% in developing countries. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of mortality among women between the ages of 15 and 19 in such areas

One or two incidents of pregnancy at school, while tragic, aren’t cause for widespread consternation. However, when we are talking about double-digit figures, I am forced question the kind of education these children are getting. And when I talk about ‘education’, I’m not only talking about history, English and math. I’m talking about the ‘facts of life’. Who is teaching them “how to say no”? Who is explaining to them how, and let me whisper it, to have safe sex?

We can keep our heads in the sand like ostriches but the fact of the matter is, a sexual revolution of sorts is upon us. Whereas only a generation ago, sex was a huge deal for teenagers’ things have changed. The advent of mobile phones connected to the Internet, social media and globalization (or western value systems; whatever you wish to call it) has totally changed the game. Our children are exploring their sexuality a lot more than we ever did.

According to a 2001 UNICEF survey, in 10 out of 12 developed nations, more than two-thirds of teenagers have had sex. In some nations such as the US, the UK, Germany, Norway and Finland, the number is over eighty percent.  However, despite the fact that these teenagers are engaging in intercourse, teenage birthrates have been steadily falling. Why? Because, as the Guttmacher Institute, a NGO working to advance reproductive health found out, teens are either choosing to remain abstinent or effectively using contraception.

What all these countries, which have such rampant teenage sex but declining pregnancies share is an effective sex education curriculum at school AND at home.

I’m pretty sure that some of these pregnancies could have been avoided by simple advice from a parent like, “don’t have sex until YOU feel ready or

Early motherhood can affect the psychosocial development of the infant.The children of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurity and low birth weight predisposing them to many other lifelong conditions

Early motherhood can affect the psychosocial development of the infant.The children of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurity and low birth weight predisposing them to many other lifelong conditions

“just because you feel like you love him (or her) doesn’t mean that you HAVE to have sex to prove it”. And the rest would have been avoided by condom use and other methods of birth control.

I’m pretty sure that most of the ‘baby-daddies’ are the girls’ classmates. No one is going to imprison them; they aren’t “culprits”, as the Governor called them. They are just poorly informed young people. We have the responsibility to give our teenagers as much information as possible in order to keep them safe. Anything less is a dereliction of duty on our part.

3 thoughts on “Rwanda’s recent spate of teenage pregnancies is our fault

  1. I am all for educating our youth on responsible sexual habits and I also feel it is not to be left to their teachers alone but parents need to be actively involved in what i view is an important issue; but I am well aware of the challenges that present themselves where I hear it is taboo to talk on such matters with young people but that has to change for their far worse repercussions of not practicing safe sex.

  2. Ali says:

    I am a little disturbed about the way in which they explained the situation. Are they culprits? Are these girls victims of sexual violence? Has anyone even asked them how they got pregnant? I know it’s not an easy topic to discuss in Rwanda, but what went on? Was it a ‘love’ thing between two consenting persons, or did some sort of violence happen?

    I’d also be interested to know the disease rates in these girls, and the whole population of the school. If there is a lot of unprotected sex happening, there could also be a lot of diseases being spread around.

    Sex ed is necessary, both at home and in school! But there’s little success in sex ed if there is not also access to condoms and birth control.

    I’m really disappointed in this news and I hope the government takes steps to bring the Minisante and Mineduc together to formulate a comprehensive sexual education plan for the schools (and also for parents! they need to know how to properly talk to their children about sex and not be shy about it). I’ll help!

  3. 0782030511 says:

    RWNDA are responsible for the education of their children , school must be the first in this issue

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