Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA
IT IS often disturbing to come across an adolescent girl experiencing motherhood at a time when her main concerns should be far less than those of raising another human being.
The sad reality is that every year more and more teens are transitioning into motherhood prematurely.
Currently, teenage pregnancy in Zambia stands at 29 percent with about 16,000 of adolescent girls dropping out of school as a result of pregnancy.
The 2013-2014 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey indicates that girls most vulnerable to teenage pregnancy and child marriages have low levels of education and belong to low-income households.
This issue raises the question of what can be done to prevent and lower the rates of teenage pregnancy.
In order to prevent teenage pregnancy, teenagers need to have a comprehensive understanding of abstinence, contraceptive techniques, and consequences.
Although there are many different ways to prevent a teenage girl from becoming pregnant, the only one that is absolutely effective is sexual abstinence.
This method is the only one that guarantees no risk of getting pregnant and protects the teen from getting any sexually transmitted diseases.
But for many years abstinence has been viewed as a decision based upon a religious or moral belief.
With such notions, it is evident that abstinence courses in schools are a sure way to get teens to realise the responsibility that comes with becoming sexually active, and to get them to think about their choices.
The more information teenagers are given on the subject, the higher the chances that they will make good decisions. It is therefore important that teenagers are taught the health benefits of abstinence.
Another form of teenage pregnancy prevention that can be taught in schools is use of various contraceptive techniques. Although abstinence remains the best way to prevent pregnancy among teens, it is a fact that there are still a large number of them who are involved in sexual relationships.
However, it is important that teens are abreast with broad information on how to responsibly use various contraceptive techniques.
In Zambian schools, sex education consists of one message, which is usually abstinence. The problem that rises from this is that teenagers are not being exposed to extensive information on the various forms of birth control, condoms, and other methods of prevention that are available.
The high numbers of teenagers getting pregnant could be because for most teenagers, the real consequences of having a child at such a young age are unknown.
Teens need to be aware of the harsh reality of raising a baby and the negative effects that an unplanned pregnancy can cause in both the mother and the child’s lives.
Teenage mothers must be aware of the tremendous effect their offspring will have on society in the future, and the high risk of the cycle repeating once this child becomes a teen. Teens must also be aware of the fact that an unplanned pregnancy will take a toll on other aspects of their lives. For example, such teens cannot complete their education due to the ailing health of the baby hence abscond school to take care of the child.
If teens are exposed to such information about the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy, they will be compelled to analyse whether sex is worth the risk.
So as various studies suggest, it is the job of parents and schools to teach teens about the negative effects of teenage pregnancy. The parents can strongly influence their children’s decisions by taking the time to be involved when the issue of sex arises. The schools can also do their part by providing the necessary information on preventing pregnancies and by encouraging teens to make responsible choices when having sex. Therefore, the responsibility of adults is to provide teens with a thorough understanding of abstinence, contraceptive techniques, and the consequences of sexual activity.
Lessons such as don’t have sex, but if you do, use a condom, should be taught in schools and also at household level whilst the church can stick to abstinence following guidance from the Bible.
It is worth noting that the plague of child marriages and teenage pregnancies continue to deprive young girls of their childhood, and the potential to become drivers of Zambia’s development.
Many girls, who aspire to become pilots, medical doctors, lawyers, nurses, and economists among other professions, fall prey to these social ills, and are forced out of education and into a life of poor prospects, with increased risk of violence, abuse, ill health or early death with the most affected being those in rural areas.
The author is a photojournalist and writer.
Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA