By Mathias Haufiku
WINDHOEK – Namibia must return to the war front, this time against teenage pregnancy, because this scourge is the reason why scores of young mothers are uneducated and subsequently unemployable, urges Home Affairs and Immigration Minister, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.
While opening the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Central Committee meeting held over the weekend in Windhoek, Iivula-Ithana said the country is treading on a slippery slope and called for urgent ideas to deal with the problem.
“All of us, without exception, must wage a war against teenage pregnancy. Let us help our young girls to get an education because the girls leave school too young and become unemployable,” she said.
“Almost every house in Eveline Street has a ‘kambashu’ (shebeen), regardless of whether there are children or not. Thus children become victims of the patrons of these houses and fall pregnant.”
She added: “We can talk and demand as much as we want, but if we cannot recognise a single factor that can turn around our situation then we will be failing.”
Iivula-Ithana said it pains and embarrasses her to know that a lot of girls are forced to drop out of school because of pregnancy.
“I know the Ministry of Education has a policy to allow children to come back after delivery, but where does a young girl leave a baby to go back to school? She must take care of the baby at night and where does she get the opportunity to study for school?” the minister wanted to know.
According to Iivula-Ithana: “This also causes baby dumping because these unfortunate teenagers who fall pregnant go into shock mode when they discover the pregnancy. They then end up covering up the pregnancy and dump the babies after delivering.”
“To bring a child into the world is an occupation for which a woman should be ready. You must devote time to the child,” she said. She also cautioned young men to desist from impregnating young women because “we are losing potential economic contributors”.
“I know young men – as long as they are told they will become fathers, you deny, insult and hate the girl until she decides to commit suicide or she hides the pregnancy and kills the baby,” she said.
The teenage pregnancy rate in the country increased from 34 percent in 2012 to 36 percent this year. Last year, in its annual State of the World Population for 2013, the United Nations Population Fund reported that every day roughly 20 000 girls below the age of 18, most of them in the developing world, gave birth and that 90 percent of these occurred within a union or marriage.
Girls under the age of 15 account for more than a quarter – about two million of 7,3 million annually – of new adolescent mothers and this number could rise to more than three million by 2030.
“Governments must shift efforts to reduce pregnancy among very young women to those that build girls’ human capital instead of simply trying to prevent adolescent pregnancy or to support girls that bear children while they are still children themselves,” urged the report.