High teen pregnancies worry Chavuma DC
Chavuma, Jun 5/13 ZANIS——-Chavuma District Commissioner, Lawrence Kayumba, is worried over high rates of teenage pregnancies among primary school girls in the area.
Mr Kayumba said after going round primary schools in the district he was shocked to find a very high number of girls attending school while pregnant.
He said after querying school authorities, he learnt that elderly men were involved in making the girls pregnant but the same culprits coerced the girls to mention school boys as being responsible.
The DC said something must be done urgently to address the problem of teenage pregnancy in Chavuma because although the girls are able to return to school after giving birth, they are disturbed by the burden of being leading to their poor performance in class.
He disclosed that girls are already losing out on economic opportunities coming to the district that require good grade 12 results.
Mr Kayumba cited a recent case when Anglo America conducted interviews to recruit local people to train in readiness of their copper and cobalt mining venture in Kalombo area.
The mineral giant wanted to recruit five boys and five girls with good grade 12 results, but unfortunately only one girl met the requirements in Chavuma.
Mr Kayumba was speaking yesterday when United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA) North Western province programme officer, Clara Mwala, provincial Aids Coordinating Advisor, Brian Sweta and FAWEZA provincial coordinator Martha Kakunta, called at his office today.
He described the problem of pregnancies among school girls as a huge challenge and called for UNFPA and its partners to help increase sensitisation that would discourage unprotected sex leading to teenage pregnancies in the area.
And Ms Mwala told the DC that the high pregnancy rates in Chavuma also raise concerns of HIV infection rates because it is an indicator that preventive measures for the disease are absent.
She said UNFPA is supporting a number of implementing organisations in the province to address various reproductive health issues including HIV and AIDS.
Ms Mwala said the UN agency is providing technical and financial support to enable implementing organisations to integrate their activities in order to enhance life skills education among young people in schools and communities.
She said imparting life skills would empower young people to become assertive to avoid vices such as sex that distract their education.
Ms Mwala said it was no longer enough to tell young people to abstain from sex as more needs to be done in empowering them so that they can make informed choices for alternative means to prevent unplanned pregnancies and infections when not abstaining.
Commenting on the matter later, health authorities in Chavuma district said two out of five girls are likely to get pregnant before they reach grade seven, though the number may be even much higher with cases that occur in the community and are not reported to health facilities.
Chavuma medical officer, Kizito Sampa, disclosed this yesterday when a team of partners sponsored by the UNFPA called on him at his office.
Mr Sampa said the high rate of teenage pregnancies is also being caused by negative attitudes by personnel at health facilities who turn away young people wanting to access family planning services.
The district medical officer said he has been talking to his health staff over the matter because the same girls they turn away from family planning services turn up pregnant the next time.
And Public Health Officer, Raphael Banda, attributed high pregnancy numbers to a cultural practice that encourages boys to become fathers.
Mr Banda said a practice locally known as fwenyatete obliges relatives of boys to hold a big party and buy new clothes for the boy once the girl he made pregnant gives birth.
He said although there has been education to discourage the practice, it is still observed among traditionalists and is a contributing factor to teenage parenthood.
“It is normal for a boy to pass to go to grade ten and the family to be happy, but when he makes a girl pregnant and a child is born, it is a big party with the family buying new clothes for the young father and cooking him a special meal,” he said.
As a result boys and girls feel they are recognised as important members of the community by becoming parents at a young age.
He also blamed the early initiation to sex among boys and girls in Chavuma on the practice whereby children are separated from the main house of their parents and built their own thatched huts at a tender age.
“When girls and boys are given to sleep in their own huts they feel they have freedom to move out at any time and do anything including engaging in sexual activities leading to unplanned pregnancies.