Kenya’s national school re-entry Guidelines provide standards for teachers, parents and communities to support teenage mothers’ return to school. The Guidelines stipulate that a pregnant schoolgirl is allowed to remain in school as long as possible. In addition, the teenage mother can re-enter school six months after delivery, which provides time for her to nurse the baby.
With legislations and policy environments that fully support their continued education, why don’t some teenage mothers return to school? Where’s the gap?
To seek answers to this question, I spoke to a few teenage mothers who dropped out of school while pregnant. Their babies are now above six months old, but they have not returned to school. This is Dayana’s story.
Dayana* is an 18-year-old mother of a nine-month-old. She found out she was pregnant while in Form 2 student at a mixed public secondary school in her Kibera neighbourhood.
“School was compounding my problems”
“I would vomit and feel sick all day long. I’d also be very moody and irritable. I remember struggling to keep my secret from fellow students and teachers, and at the same time being mortified about my parents finding out. There was so much going on with me mentally, physically, and emotionally that I could no longer concentrate in class. Going to school was only complicating my life,” she says.
When she was three months pregnant, Dayana abandoned her studies. When her parents learnt about the pregnancy, they didn’t pressure her to return to class. After delivering her son, her parents continued to support her, but the support did not extend to her baby.
“My parents provided me with food and shelter, so I didn’t need to stress about that. However, when it came to buying diapers and clothes for my son, his clinic expenses and financing his other needs, my parents told me to sort that out by myself.”
Becoming a married teenager
When her son turned six months, and with his expenses increasing, Dayana chose to move in with his father, a 23-year-old casual labourer.
I asked her if she knows that she can return to school.
“Yes, I know I can go back to school. However, I don’t feel like school is for me anymore. A few months ago, I enrolled in a hair and beauty course at a local NGO that is sponsoring me, and I feel this is a better option for me,” says the mom who scored 260 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) national examination.
The NGO that is supporting Dayana is Agape Woman and Child Empowerment Foundation (AWOCHE), a community-based and youth-led organization in Kibera that empowers girls, youth and women on their education and health rights.
Once I start making money, I’ll be good
Dayana, who has now set her sights on becoming a make-up-artist, believes she will secure a job once she completes her studies. She began the beauty course in July 2022 and will complete it in January 2023.
“I’m confident about my beauty skills and I know I will make money. I’ll get my own clients and be able to provide for my son. To be honest, I was an average student in class, and I don’t see myself going back to school –that ship has already sailed. I’m happy with the course I’m doing now and the prospects it has for me,” she says.
Does Dayana know of other teen moms who dropped out of school, and if they have resumed their studies?
Yes, I know of other girls who dropped out, but I don’t know of any who has gone back. In fact, we were two of us pregnant in Form 2 at my school. The other girl hasn’t gone back either.
Now that she is married, does she have plans to get another baby?
“No, not right now. Let me finish my beauty course first, make money, ensure my son has started school, then I’ll get another child. I’m on a long-term family planning method and once my son is about seven years old, I believe I’ll be stable enough to give him a baby sister or brother,” she says.
What are your thoughts on Dayana’s story? Are technical courses a better option for those who not deem themselves to be academically bright? Should we guide them in this direction? Share your thoughts in the commets section below.
- In Kenya, early pregnancy refers to pregnancy that occurs in the life of a girl below the country’s age of consent (which is 18 years).
- Early pregnancy has been shown to be the main reason for school drop-out of adolescent girls.
- In 2021, about 21% or 317,644 of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19 years.
- A survey by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed that in Kibera sub-county, where Dayana resides, the number of adolescents (10-19 years) who presented with pregnancy at first ante-natal care visit in 2021 were 1,076.
If you work in an organization that deals with teenage mothers that you’d like highlighted, reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
*Name changed for purposes of protecting her identity.
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