Found some really chilling statistics about teenage pregnancies across the country, while preparing for a radio programme last week. We must all support the call for the development of a policy that will help prevent and stem the rising risk of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and their attendant social issues. And this must be urgent!
We are already in torrid times, with a myriad of social problems- unemployment, insecurity, a struggling economy coupled with a pandemic, among others. Quite unfortunately our youth are getting caught up in yet another quandary. Even without considering the times, we are in, and our dire economic circumstances, without question, our children, barely babies themselves, have no business making babies.
Falling educational standards, passive approaches to dealing with child marriages and child delinquency, and poor parental supervision, have all contributed vicariously to the increasing canker.
The lack of adherence to abstinence and a reluctance of a rather conservative society to promote the use of contraceptives and contraception as a means of controlling and containing unwanted pregnancies is also part of the problem. Our moral voices condemn premarital sex, but it is prevalent.
According to the statistics, between 11-15% of our teenage population are having sex by the age of 15!
In other jurisdictions, public policy is geared towards safe sex and advocacy for contraception and protection.
Between 2016 and 2020, about 555,575 teenagers aged 10 to 19 years, are said to have gotten pregnant.
Within the five years, 13,444 teenagers between the ages of 10 and 14 got pregnant, while some 542,131 teenagers aged 15 to 19 years got pregnant. On average, therefore, a little over 112,800 teenagers get pregnant annually, according to the Ghana Health Service.
A total of 676 school children in the Volta Region got pregnant during the period of the Coronavirus pandemic, spanning March to September 2020. This is according to a Ghana Education Service (GES) release.
Of the figure, 176 of the pregnancies were recorded among primary pupils, 325 in Junior High (JHS), and 175 in Senior High School (SHS).
A total of 285 nursing mothers are also recorded to be in school, the majority in JHS and SHS.
Experts are ad idem that these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and that this matter requires urgent national attention if we as a people intend to develop and nurture our youth.
Government, Parliament, the Judiciary, Parents, Civil Society Organizations etc must all come together to intervene. This is potentially a national security matter.
What we need is a National Policy on prevention, and a lasting solution to ending teenage pregnancies. The accompanying stigma and the sociological problems associated with it have lasting effects on the mother and child in particular.
Time to end esoteric philosophical debates on the matter. Let’s all come together as men and women and help these young ones to rather develop themselves intellectually, spiritually and career-wise. For as we do it for them, we do it for ourselves and attain a safer, more prosperous society.
As a daughter of a teacher and a senior lawyer myself, I dare say that the laws on the protection of children are good but lack of enforcement has been the challenge.
I, therefore, recommend that we consider a reformation of our views on sexual and reproductive health education. Let us educate our boy and girl child on and about sex, promote abstinence where possible and ensure the safety and protection of our children.
Joyce Bawah Mogtari
Lawyer & Special Aide to Former President John Dramani Mahama.