• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Why early girl-child pregnancy is clog in Nigeria’s education wheel

Will Africa rise or fall on education?

Rebecca Okongwu was the seventh child in a family of eight born of peasant farmers in a predominantly impoverished agricultural community.

The young girl who had dreamt of becoming a licensed nurse saw her lofty dream come crashing when she was forced to withdraw from school at Junior Secondary School three (JSS3) because she was found to be pregnant with a child.

Every parent at one time or another thinks about the unspeakable, unthinkable question; “What would you do if your daughter was to drop out of school due to an unwanted pregnancy?”

Early and unwanted pregnancy is every parent’s nightmare as it results in aborting a child’s academic dreams if not well handled.

Educating the girl-child is one of the best ways for developing countries like Nigeria to escape poverty and gear toward a more sustainable future.

However, in Nigeria, thousands of girl children drop out of school as a result of unwanted pregnancy, throwing their future into danger.

The federal government expressed concern in 2020 that about 15 percent of girls drop out of school, especially in the rural areas.

In Nigeria, one out of five teenage women from age 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.

According to Africa Check, a non-profit fact checking organisation, Lagos has one percent of adolescent women who have begun childbearing, and that is the lowest when compared to Bauchi in northeastern Nigeria which has 41 percent.

Experts believe that low education and high poverty levels are factors for these regional differences in the early girl-child pregnancy rate.

Forty-four percent of teenage women with no education have begun childbearing, compared to one percent of teenage women with more than secondary education.

In Nigeria, 40.1 percent of people are poor according to the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, 63 percent are multidimensional poor according to the National MPI 2022.

Multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72 percent of people are poor, compared to 42 percent of people in urban areas, a Nigerian stat report shows.

The National MPI is reported with a linked Child MPI, which provides additional information on Multidimensional Child Poverty in Nigeria.

According to the report; “Two-thirds (67.5 percent) of children age 0 to 17 are multidimensionally poor, half (51 percent) of all poor people are children.”

Boye Ogundele, an educationist called on the government to provide free education at primary and secondary school levels and also, establish more skill acquisition centres so that when the girl child that cannot go to higher institutions will acquire skills.

Ogundele sees teenage pregnancy as one of the social ills in society today.

“The reason why it’s on the increase is as a result of social media influence. All the teenagers want to “Blow” even without having a skill or career. The latest IPhone 14 is around 1.5m. Majority are on tik-talk. They are making money from exposing their private parts,” he said.

He decried the fact that there is no future for Nigeria education again. The educationist pointed out that white collar jobs are not there again for fresh graduates, which have made many youth to believe that education is a scam.

Dideolu Adekogbe, lead consultant at Florish-Gate Global Consult & Bring Back Primary 6 Movement said to curb the menace of early pregnancy and the consequent school dropout stringent actions should be taken by the government to create enabling environments for parents by providing them with job opportunities.

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“Create an enabling environment for their parents to practice their trade or skill. This will enable them to take care of their daughters and early pregnancy will be eliminated or reduced,” she said.

Besides, Adekogbe advocated for practical engagement of students in creative learning activities that will motivate them to want to learn and study more.

“The system should be made to accommodate mentoring and proper follow-up alongside the curriculum teaching.

The girls should be made to come back to complete their education after delivering their babies,” she said.

Early pregnancy and childbearing can also have social consequences for girls, including reduced status in the home and community, stigmatization, rejection and violence by family members, peers and partners, and early forced marriage.

Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to the health consequences of pregnancy and delivery as their bodies may not be physically ready. Obstetric fistula, eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections are just some of the serious conditions that they may face in the short- and long-term. Globally, maternal conditions are among the top causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and death among girls aged 15-19.

Busayo Aderounmu, a lecturer at Covenant University, Ota in Ogun State tasks parents to do more in reducing early girl child pregnancy in various communities.

“I think parents have more roles to play in reducing early girl child pregnancy which results in high dropout rate among school children.

Parents should dedicate more time to educate their children both boys and girls, especially in matters relating to sex education,” she said.

Aderounmu further counselled that the government should enforce rules that protect the girl child from sexual harassment and ensure that schools teach children sex education from lower classes.

Similarly, Bamidele Okuwoga, a legal practitioner blames school dropouts of girls due to early pregnancy resulting basically from a lack of sex education both by parents and schools.

“There is a dire need to educate the girl child on the dangers of early sex due to its attendant consequences,” he said.
Okuwoga also pointed out that lack of proper training and parental care is another major factor giving rise to early pregnancy among school children.

“A lot of parents are complicit in early marriages of their daughters, thereby depriving them of education and also exposing them to avoidable abuse and early pregnancy,” he noted.

The legal practitioner said the way out of this is for the government to legislate a law against early marriage, and make education free and compulsory up to secondary level. Besides, he advocated that those who sexually abuse girls should be prosecuted.

Olatunde Adebayo, a student at the University of Lagos in the same vein believes that the government should enact strong laws against underage sex.

“Once there is enough deterrence against perpetrators of this act, early pregnancy for young girls will reduce,” he said.

World Population Review 2023 reports states that more than 13 million children are born to women below 20 years.

And more than 90 percent (approximately 12 million births) of the births occur in developing countries, with African countries taking the top ranks.

In Africa, Niger Republic leads the pack with 203.6 out of 1,000 girls, followed by Mali with 175.44 out of 1,000 girls, Angola with 166.6 out of 1,000 girls, and Guinea 141.67 out of 1,000 girls.

At the global level, Nigeria is the sixth country with teenage pregnancy rating behind Pakistan, Indonesia, United States, China, and India.

This is just one of the countries of Africa being robbed of legions of intellectuals as a result of early pregnancy that gives rise to dropping out of school.

Many girls who are pregnant are pressured to drop out of school, which negatively impacts their educational, and employment prospects and opportunities.

Besides, early pregnancy has social consequences for girls, including reduced status in the home and community, stigmatization, and violence by family members, and peers, and forced marriage.