Disturbing news, help needed

Catherine Murombedzi Health correspondent —
Disturbing news indeed that a total of 4500 pupils who sat Grade 7 examination in 2016 ended up pregnant out of 359 600. One may argue that the pregnant girls are a minority.

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Sex education needs to be reinforced teaching morals and goals.  In the early 80s we had moral education and living as a subject although not examinable.

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It helped a lot. It shaped lives and expectations. What are the expectations of a 13 year old mum who is a child herself?

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A child with another child is the case. The aspect that she has a baby will never see her catapult to parentage status.

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That girl is a minor and still needs parental advice. If who ever made these girls pregnant are men who are majors then corrective action needs to be taken.

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If the responsible person is a minor too then two minors need assistance in getting back to education tracks.

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Most of the times pregnancy affects the one who carries it leaving the man scot free. The chairperson on Parliamentary Committee on Health Hon Ruth Labode called on debate to be opened on the way forward on this disturbing issue.

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“We need to re-look the issue of school girls falling pregnant.  The Minister of Education Dr Lazarus Dokora informed the nation that 4500 Grade 7 girls fell pregnant in 2016. This is unfortunate and we need to open debate on the issue, “  said Hon Labode.

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Hon Labode is a retired medical doctor and knows the dangers of such under age girls falling pregnant.  She has seen many dying in child birth due to the under age factor.

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Hon Ruth Labode has said there is need to re-open debate over the distribution of condoms in schools in view of the revelations that thousands of children are falling pregnant every year.

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“What the Minister of Education presented is just the tip of an iceberg because what he did not state to us is how many young girls die from illegal abortions as there are so many of them,” she said.

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“We need a serious national dialogue to discuss whether we take the European way, where schools have condom kiosks, and also the issue of safe abortions because the high figures of maternal mortality are also caused by abortions and under-age girls giving birth.”

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The bible says a shepherd leaves his folk to look for one lost sheep. So Hon labode is right, the girls here need urgent help.

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When one sinner repents heavens rejoice. I am not advocating for the dishing of condoms to minors. I am saying as parents and community have we equipped these young pupils with correct sex education.

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Taking a closer look at the 4500 girls who fell pregnant in 2016 can a survey be done to tease out more.

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Who is living with the minors?

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Who made them pregnant?

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Was it truancy or they were under the influence of an older person and alcohol?

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Are the girls in a position to return to school. We know Ministry policy says they return to school.

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It is not that easy,  is there an older person willing to baby sit while she goes back to school.

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I know a lot of people who insist that for one to learn they have to carry their cross. In this instance where the teen mum is, she has to carry her baby.

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The return to school police sounds noble but are there support systems to help the girl who fell and needs a hand to hold on to?

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Talking to parents randomly on the issue here is what they said.

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Mrs Shingirayi Matogo an activist in the HIV field said that it’s  frightening.

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“It is indeed sad and frightening.  As parents we think it never happens to me but I put myself in the shoes of that parent. They are worried where the got it wrong. The girl is a mom with an unplanned and even unwanted baby. There is fear of HIV infection.

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The girl needs reorientation and counselling.  They need to first understand that they have a problem and then map the suitable way forward.  It is not one size fits all. A look at an individual child is required. It is painful to think of a 12 even 14 year old being a mother.  We need to sit down with our children and help understand where they are crying out,” said Matogo.

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Mr Miles Mutinhi said values need to be calculated in children from an early age.

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“A child needs to have a purpose and goals in life. They need to know that you work for success. Sleeping around will surely have negative impact as looking after a baby is no play. So I think sex education has to be introduced in primary school. We only got to learn of this at secondary school.  The school curriculum needs to encompass this,” said Mr Mutinhi.

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Mrs Chipo Nqaba said rape has been committed openly and the law needs to take its course.

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“Rape and defilement of children without justice has been going on for some time most girls don’t report abuse but when a minor falls pregnant corrective action is needed,” said Mrs Nqaba.

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“Recommendations could be made to what is missing because piece meals can bring more danger,” she said.

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“Imagine in my home country South Africa this week we found out that under age girls in Limpopo have been found to be pregnant and the majority are HIV+. And what does that mean to sex education; sexual health; furthering of these children now with babies?” she asked.

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“It means they did not know enough to have  been having sex. These minors were likely coerced and with limited  education on HIV and rights towards autonomy they fell into these statistics,” she added.

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“Mind you the area in Limpopo is also very patriarchal and little information on sex education is highly unlikely taught in schools because of cultural norms. It’s a bloody disaster we are dealing with.

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Please deliberate on the pros and cons and keep our children safe. I don’t know much of the law but the reality is that in our context some vultures are free amidst our children, “ said Mrs Nqaba.

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Mrs Clare Chima argues that delayed sex has more gains. Teach them to abstain.

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“There is evidence that promotion of delayed sexual debut among the youth works well. But some people don’t want that. Condom kiosk will not be helpful as according to Centre for Diseases Control of  Atlanta, the number of condoms in Africa corresponds to 10 condoms per man per year. (Covering only the needs for 1 month, there are still 11 months left) .

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In addition UNAIDS said the funding of condom is decreasing. UNAIDS also said condom use is decreasing. We have to be realistic.

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Let’s calculate values in our children let them acquire an education it is the foundation of life,” said Mrs Chima.

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National statistics show that new HIV infections in the 15 to 24 age group in girls is higher than boys.

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“The girls in the 15 to 24  age group has a higher HIV incidence as compared to the boys in the same age group.  Recent stats by ZIMPPHIA show the 21 to 24 age group in boys recording a fall in new HIV infections. For girls it is 11 percent while boys remained at 3 percent,” said National AIDS Council Monitoring and evaluation director Mr Amon Mpofu.

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National debate is needed on this urgently not just in parliament but acros s the nation.