The recent spike in teen pregnancies across the country is being attributed by activists with the National Youth Advocacy Platform (NYAP) to the government’s continued shutdown of schools as one of the strategies to restrict the virus’ spread.
NYAP chairperson Crispin Mutehimbwa Kakuba, speaking to journalists on Sunday, stated that while there were teenage pregnancies even while schools were open, the situation was aggravated by the continuous shutdown.
“The Covid epidemic and subsequent school closures have resulted in the girl child, particularly in rural and peri-urban populations, engaging in ignorant sexual behavior.” “The shutdown of schools as a strategy to combat Covid spread exposed youngsters to those with evil intents looking to exploit them,” Mutehimbwa added.
According to Peter Kato of the Kawaala Teenage Centre, while schools are safe locations for adolescents to be kept away from risk, many parents lack the ability to successfully communicate to their children about how to avoid pregnancies at home.
“Schools were safety networks to protect children from all types of risks, including pregnancy,” Kato explained. “However, when the lockdown began, the young people had a lot of extra time at home, and many parents lacked communication skills to communicate with them.”
“It is the reason why many of the children are pregnant, not to strangers but to individuals they know, a worrying situation.”
According to the campaigners, the rise in teen pregnancies has been compounded by the large number of unattended youngsters during online classes, when many of them wind up searching the internet for pornography and other sex-related materials.
“Many youngsters who are homeschooled online try to put what they have learned on the internet into practice. Because parents don’t have time to monitor what their children are doing, many of them engage in sex, which leads to teenage pregnancies.”
Action is needed now.
The campaigners stated that the government should assist in developing solutions to help cope with the crisis.
“The government should promote urban farming and other activities to keep youngsters occupied during the lockdown, but it should also spend more in ICT skilling to encourage young learners to learn from home,” Diana Nannono, a female spokeswoman for the NYAP, said.
The campaigners also encouraged the government to speed up actions to guarantee that schools reopen quickly so that children can return to school as one strategy to safeguard them from home redundancy.
“The government should properly enforce laws against defilement, child marriage, and other forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as engage in parent sensitization on their roles in children’s upbringing,” Nannono said.
“Adequate resources should be provided to police, local councils, and probation officers to enable them to carry out their responsibilities in protecting girls against adolescent pregnancies and early marriage.”
According to the National Youth Advocacy Platform, pregnant females should not be barred from continuing their education once schools reopen, but rather should be assisted in whatever way possible to guarantee a safe delivery.
Parents, according to the activists, have a role to play in ensuring that the current crisis is addressed.
“Parents should use their own personal experiences to educate their children about the dangers of early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy. Evelyn Zalwango, the principal program officer in charge of health for the Community Integrated Development Initiatives, stated, “This will go a long way in ensuring children avoid early sex.”