Postcard From Freetown: The Menace of Teenage Pregnancy!

Last night I had the pleasure of chatting to my elder brother about a recent trend I have observed in Freetown and that is teenage pregnancy. As I walk through the streets of Freetown the most concurrent thing for you to see especially after school hours is young girls that are either pregnant or have kids alongside them as they walk home from school.

I had the fortunate opportunity to be present in one scenario in which I asked my step mum about a girl passing by her shop with a baby in her hand in her school uniform and she confirmed that, that’s her child and she is the mother. By the look of things, this girl in question should be around fifteen years old. I was shocked, as distraught encapsulated my entire sanity.

Teenage pregnancy is a menace in Sierra Leone. It hit hard to the core of society and according to statistics that I have seen, Sierra Leone is ranked the number one country with a high rate of teenage pregnancy in sub Saharan Africa. This I can testify to because I am in Freetown and seeing it with my very own eyes. I am in stitches thinking, what will cause and lead a girl child of about thirteen years to get pregnant? What happened to the moral fibre of society and family? Where are the fathers and mothers to instil discipline and educate their children about the vices of sex at younger age and womanhood?

As I inquired further, I realized that even the so-called fathers of these kids are boys within the same age group as these girls and they live under their parents’ roof, depending on mummy and daddy for lunch to school and I am thinking, how are these babies going to be taken care of when the fathers are mere teenagers too?

In my days when I was going to school back in the nineties, we had what we called family life education, in which we were taught about sex and the implications of engaging in such activities. I eavesdropped on some of the discussions these teenagers are having and what I heard was shocking. Some spoke about stuff that even me in my thirties I am yet to experience. The girls in Freetown are wild, they’ve lost touch with morality and the competition for a boyfriend is feisty here. Some go as far as cursing and fighting for a guy that can’t even buy a toothpick for himself and I wonder what went wrong?

The First Lady of the Republic Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma has launched the family planning and the prevention of teenage pregnancy and early marriage. The whole concept is; she believes that Traditional and Religious Leaders can champion the way forward for the drastic reduction of the high figure of deaths of teenage pregnant girls while giving life. The First Lady holds the view that Traditional and Religious Leaders play critical roles in their communities and in the social, health and cultural development of individuals, families and the country. Statistics also reveal that ninety percent of people in Sierra Leone are attached to some form of religion be it Christianity or Islam. What the first lady failed to mentioned was the importance and involvement and role of the family in such a trivia as teenage pregnancy.

The Government of Sierra Leone is currently discussing in Parliament about passing a legislation that ensure that when a teenage girl is pregnant, both her and the boy in question will be expelled from school. The whole idea is to instil fear and caution. I am very skeptical about this law as to why not educate the people and introduce both male and female contraceptives to aid prevention because the reality is these kids will have sex by any means possible and fear does not cure ignorance either.

As I reflect on this sad reality that is hitting this nation, young mothers everywhere with kids for fathers that are being fathered, with no idea of what fatherhood is all about, my heart aches for this generation. Proactively speaking, I don’t have the solutions to some of these issues but one thing I am rest assured of is, it all starts at home and its time these kids’ parents stand up and take up their responsibilities and teach their kids about the repercussions of sex. Another aching issue is the level of illiteracy amongst the parents themselves. For the most part of it, majority of the Sierra Leonean populace are illiterate and bend towards these traditional methods of doing things which to my understanding have not worked.

On the hindsight, I cannot blame it on the war but the reality is whatever Sierra Leoneans are facing today presently has a reference to the decade plus of civil war. The war did affect a lot of things and changed the stratosphere of the country as a whole. Some of the people are frustrated, some can’t recover from the damage caused by the war so they have given up on life and live life recklessly with the ‘I don’t care’ attitude toward everything’.

Sierra Leone is sinking fast but it is not too late to save it from this iceberg that is about to hit us. I just hope against hope as time goes by and with the initiative of that of both the government and foreign aid organization within the country to tackle teenage pregnancy will start yielding results. As I put my pen to rest, I am confident that Sierra Leone will get it right and rise again to raise her children in the foremost and best ways ever. I have hope that she will be able to stand on her fight and stand the test of time. Teenage pregnancy is a menace and a reality in sub Saharan Africa. Parents take up your responsibility and educate your kids, it all starts at home.

@DanteBello on Twitter.

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