Grandparents shoulder burden of teen births
For many parents, there’s nothing that compares to the magic of watching their children give them grandchildren. There’s something incredible about witnessing the growth and expansion of your family. Parents look forward to seeing their grandchildren, watching which relatives they might resemble and discovering what type of people they will become as individuals.
Being a grandparent, however, is not all joy to some. Especially when your teenage daughter brings a child home instead of focusing on education. Being underage, the teen mothers can barely take care of themselves or even their babies. This burden is shouldered by their parents who now have to play the double parenting role.
Joyce Njeri* from Mjini slums at the outskirts of Murang’a town came to learn of her daughter’s pregnancy seven months after she conceived. It was a shocking revelation as the daughter had not shown any signs of pregnancy and she used to go about her activities as usual.
The daughter, Njeri says, was in Form Three when she became pregnant last year, and she had struggled to raise her school fees to keep her in class.
The situation weighed her down. She, however, says she had to accept the situation and support her daughter.
The man responsible for the pregnancy had agreed to be supporting her financially, but he later withdrew and the burden was left on Njeri’s shoulders.
Making ends meet
The money she earns as a security guard is not enough money to cater for the needs of her three children and she had to look for other means to earn an extra coin.
“I was in a day shift, but I requested to be put on night shift so that during the day, I could look for casual jobs to earn an extra coin,” she says.
Three months after the baby was born, Njeri’s daughter went back to school to complete her studies. “I had to shoulder the burden and take care of the baby, so that the mother could back to school,” she reveals.
With such a young toddler, it was not easy to go round seeking for menial jobs and she requested a neighbour to take care of the baby during the times she got casual work.
“It’s a huge struggle for me because I’m a single parent. I have to, therefore, put more effort to make ends meet so that I can feed my children and grandchild because I’m alone in this,” she says.
The baby is 11 months old now and the mother is set to sit her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) this December.
Njeri is not the only one dealing with such a situation. Ann Nyambura* also a single mother, is taking care of her 16 year-old-daughter and a three-month-old granddaughter. The minor dropped out of school in Form Two due to lack of school fees. Few months later, she became pregnant.
Nyambura, a mother of five is a casual labourer. Not all days she is lucky to get a job. Putting food on the table is a daily struggle.
“My daughter is still young and she is not able to look after herself and the baby. Thus, the burden falls on me because the man who impregnated her refused to take responsibility,” she says.
“I take them to be both my children because the mother needs to be fed and also shown how to nurture the baby. This is not easy,” Nyambura added.
Mary Njoki’s* daughter is due to deliver in a months’ time. She also dropped out of school while in Form Three due to lack of fees. She opted to help her mother take care of her three siblings by doing casual jobs to make ends meet.
However, she fell into the hands of a man who impregnated her and abandoned her. Njoki confesses that at one time, she thought of having her daughter procure an abortion, but she quickly dismissed it after learning of an incident where a minor died after a botched abortion.
“I felt the baby would be an extra burden on me because the mother is too young. However, I decided I will take the responsibility. I’m now waiting for the baby to be born,” she says. ”
Susan Njagi a social worker says some parents of teen mothers refuse to support their daughters as they feel the burden is too much for them.
“Most of the victims of teen pregnancies are from poor background with the parents struggling to meet the basic needs. They feel the baby would be an extra burden for the poor family,” she says.
The officer shares how in some instances, the family opts not to keep the child after birth and offer it for adoption. “We have had cases where the family agree to give the baby up for adoption after birth. However, in order for that to happen, all the necessary legal procedures have to be followed,” she notes.
She urges the government to consider coming up with a plan to cushion poor families and help them take care of the teen mums and their young ones.
“I would propose the government start a programme where teen mums can be housed, their children taken care of, while the mothers are given an opportunity to continue with their education and pursue their dreams,” she remarks.
Lack of parental care, lack of sex education, insufficient communication and supervision by parents, poverty, peer pressure, low educational level and negative family interactions are some of the factors which have contributed to increased teen pregnancies.
Other risk factors include single parent families, sexual abuse or rape, substance abuse, socio-economic status, family history of teenage pregnancies, forced marriage and child marriage.
Susan stress the need for sex education programmes in and out of schools. She calls upon the county governments to prioritise this in their agenda.
According to the statistics from the Ministry of Health, about 32,000 cases of teenage pregnancies have been reported in Murang’a over the past six years. Countrywide, over 109,110 have been reported over the same period.