Teenage pregnancy is a contemporary social condition facing Namibia. Recently, a local print media outlet reported that 127 Namibian teenagers fall pregnant daily.
This caused a social media frenzy; with multiple people sharing a snapshot of the headline, stunned at the possibility of 127 daily pregnancies. Ironically, however, the same social media piles pictures of babies posted by young girls with captions such as “my heartbeat,” or “my reason for living”. We like the pictures perhaps mentally questioning the obvious, ‘if she is now 21 and her “heartbeat” or otherwise son or daughter turned five, then how old was this young mother when she initially gave birth?’
However, I do not want to focus on social media or its seismic ability to normalize taboos; readjusting social norms stretching what is considered acceptable. I want to deliberate on the possible threat that this social situation has on the Harambee Prosperity Plan and in turn the attainment of our Vision 2030.
When a teenager has a child; there begins the start of a rippling effect that not only has detrimental effects on the child-bearer but in turn the next generation that follows in her lineage.
Research has shown that teenage pregnancy potentially leads to a lower lifetime wage and earning trajectory for the young child-bearer. This is probable, given that most teenage mothers do not pursue tertiary education, opting rather to seek employment in order to support the needs of their untimely offspring. That is if she completes secondary school. No formal qualification reduces her employability, leaving her financially handicapped. A low-earning mother is limited in regard to the educational provisions that she is able to have for her child, in terms of not only formal schooling but also basic child rearing and upbringing.
Firstly, a teenage mother is more likely to exercise child-harming behaviour such as drinking, smoking or other during pregnancy, and there is the higher likelihood that these activities would continue after birth and possibly in the presence of their offspring. The early years of a child’s life are imperative for their cognitive growth; this is when social development also starts to take place.
If compromised there comes into existence a cycle: an underdeveloped child; inability to fully capture the fundamentals of education during the schooling process; low self-esteem succumbing to peer pressure; a higher possibility of engaging in risky behaviour; teenage pregnancy; limited education; low-income earner. Let us go again, underdeveloped child…. The cycle has the potential of going on and on, creating a pool of new entrants into the poverty assemblage.
Teenage pregnancy is therefore, somewhat, a threat to the economic growth of the country, with more and more young women not reaching their full potential and being unable to serve the country at their highest capability.
Our school curriculum does consist of ample sexual reproductive health modules, right at the onset of adolescence. However, it is also the role of the parents or guardian to reiterate and enforce the begotten information, to teach sexual education at home. If parenting is to be left to the state then perhaps a mass “vaccination” campaign should take place, just like for Rubella – posters can be printed, stations can be set up, then we can start ushering all our 13/14/15-year-olds, our children, to the different points to get contraceptive injections. Alternatively, perhaps, we could start talking to our children about sex and the consequences of early sexual intercourse, especially that of unprotected sex. Truth is, the children are “doing it” and as a parent, you need to talk about it and deal with the reality before, as they say in biblical lyricism, ‘your child becomes with child’.