Education As A Means To Eradicate Teenage Pregnancy, By Imam Ummulikhaeri
Good health and well-being is an integral part of human existence, especially the specie of human creature that is vested with the responsibility of procreation. Little wonder the Goal 3 and 5 of the United Nation Sustainable Development Goal come with strong advocacy for “Good Health and Well-being” and the “Empowerment of all women and girls across the globe”.
Traditionally, the female gender is seen to face a lot of challenges both health and economic, which relegate her to all sort of vulnerability and abuses like child marriage, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, female genital mutilation and poverty. All these are constituent factors that lead to increased mortality rate.
Currently, the Nigerian maternal mortality rate stands at 576 per 1000 live birth. Although, the United Nation is working towards achieving a target less than 70% maternal death by 2030 globally. This will require a reduction rate of at least 7.5% annually. Hence, the quest to nip this scourge in the bud becomes our collective obligation.
Statistically, about 23% of Nigerian women aged 15-19 years have begun childbearing of which 17% have had their first child and 5% are pregnant with their child. Also, 32% of teenagers in rural areas have begun childbearing as against 10% in the urban areas of the country.
In the South-South region of Nigeria, Cross River State has the second highest incidence of Teenage Pregnancy. Out of a 103 girls between the age of 15-19, 17% of them have had a live birth, 1.4% are pregnant with their first child and 18.4% have begun childbearing- Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). Owing to this, there is need for intense advocacy against this practice in the region.
Teenage Pregnancy is a serious canker worm that has eaten deep to the fabric of our societies. Even in this contemporary age, the prevalence is ridiculous! This social menace comes with a handful of consequences, critical among them is Maternal and Child Mortality, Interrupted Educational Attainment, Improper Care of the baby and others.
Maternal Mortality:- Adolescent girls who get pregnant in their teens are less likely to get adequate health care so they are faced with challenges like premature birth, stillbirth, obstetric fistula, severe bleeding, infection, self induced abortion and so on. However, most of these complications are curable or preventable but because most teens do not receive support from their families, they are less likely to access proper prenatal care, especially those in the remote areas.
More so, most pregnant teens are still developing and so do not have the nutritional strength to nourish themselves properly let alone a growing baby. This leads to raising of a malnourished baby. In addition to this, the hostile attitude that teen mothers get from their families and friends make them more likely to be emotionally derailed and be in isolation which could lead to hypertension and/or postpartum depression.
Interrupted Educational Attainment:- Study shows that teen mothers are at a higher risk of being school drop out. Only one-third of teen mothers obtain a high school diploma. Teenage pregnancy has proven to be an impediment to educational achievement of the girl child.
An adolescent girl who conceives at a tender age may likely not go back to school because of the stigmatization that comes with having a baby while in school. Asides this, most of these girls are from less privileged homes, so they have little resources available for their personal upkeep let alone that of the baby. Unfortunately, the society blames only the girl for this incidence, ignoring the fact that there are two parties involved in the reproduction of a baby.
Improper Care Of The Baby:- Usually there’s no plan or preparation for the welfare of a teen mother’s baby. The unpreparedness that comes with having the baby, destabilizes the mother and renders her almost helpless as to taking full responsibility of the new baby.
In search of greener pastures, a good number of teen mothers leave their babies in the care of their mothers or extended relative who has little or nothing to take care of the growing child. This however leads to the child growing up without strict supervision or parental care. In the end the child (if a girl) may end up treading the path of her mother by making the same mistake and it gradually becomes a generational problem.
The way out of these precarious situations is a quality education. It is the sure means to eradicate teenage pregnancy. By education, we mean teaching adolescent girls all about sexual and reproductive health so that they can make the right choices. Based on religious and moral consciousness, African parents find it difficult to engage their children in sex education with the fear that it could encourage them to be sexually active. Unknown to them that the world has passed that primitive stage.
So whether or not they agree to talk to their children about it, the children already know, in fact to a great extent. Why hesitate then?! Parents must help their children, especially girls understand the potential consequences of unprotected sexual intercourse and the complications that come with it.
Also, ending teenage pregnancy through education could mean improved opportunities for girls to be educated. Research shows that “girls who are poor, poorly educated, or living in remote areas are at greater risk of becoming pregnant than those who are wealthier, well educated and live in urban areas”.
This implies that with education, teenage pregnancy can be curbed. The longer a girl stays in school, the less likely her chances of becoming pregnant as a teen. This is because she is preoccupied with educational activities, her aspiration is heightened and does not want anything to hinder her dreams.
Conclusively, education has proven to be a solution to so many social problems and this is one of the problems that can be curbed through it. Girls in rural areas should be encouraged to further their educational pursuit beyond secondary level and be suffice with necessary information on the dangers of early involvement in sex.
Imam-Lawal Ummulikhaeri is a graduate of History and International Studies at the University of Ilorin and former Vice President of the Unilorin Students’ Union. She’s currently undergoing her National Youth Service Corp in Cross River State Nigeria. She’s passionate about improving the welfare of girls and women across the world. She tweets @khayr_khayr and Instagram with the same handle.