Teen pregnancies: Let us get the facts correct

28Aug 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Commentary
Teen pregnancies: Let us get the facts correct

I read, with great interest, your front page article with the  heading: “Fact Check: Will Banning Schooling Mums Really Reduce Teen Pregnancy.”

It was  in The Guardian of 17/08/2017. It was a good contribution as we are starting to be logical and research guided.  

I had an occasion to contribute my opinion on this issue in The Citizen of 26/06/2017 with the heading,: “Locking out teen mums won’t help anyone”. I still stand by that position, first as a parent and secondly as a professor of educational psychology where  teen issues are researched, taught,  and thoroughly discussed. It is not just right to lock them out of school for life when we know most of them are from poor families  and never planned to get into that predicament of teen pregnancy.

Recently the issue of not admitting back to school teen mothers got two fallacious lines of reasoning. These were that, first, the teen mothers would contaminate or positively affect or be role models of other pupils  if left or admitted back to  school. Secondly that if readmitted back to school they would repeat the action of being pregnant again.  I have checked in research  literature and reflected on theories of modeling and  copying behaviors of others and found no evidence to support those two arguments. 

In fact, leaving  them at home  increases the chance of being pregnant again because of empty space, addling,  and looking for economic  support out  of desperation. Data shows that models which are copied ate those  being reinforced for their actions. Schools do not reinforce teen pregnancies and  most parents hate it, and are embarrassed,  and see  opportunities lost for their children and themselves. They all see female ministers so they know what education might have meant to their daughters

You should see and hear teen pregnant girls crying in their   homes for the terrible thing that has killed  their dreams of becoming great girls and women in public life. The problem with the current punishment is that it is lifelong punishment and not based on any evidence for positive results but plenty of evidence for negative effects. Some teen mothers attempt abortion,  commit  suicide,  or elope and become teen wives.. One thing which is for sure is that most of these pregnancies are not planned or  deliberate actions based on love and mutual understanding but mostly accidents in life. Giving teen girls life punishment is inhuman and counter productive. 

There are other ways of punishing them,  including detaining them to sweep schools after school hours and head teachers getting tough on them,  including plenty of negative publicity. After all,  being out of school for a whole year to deliver and  taking  care of a baby is a big punishment by itself.One area that we tend to overlook is punishing the culprits, that is  the  boys and men who cause teen pregnancies. For instance,  boys should be expelled from school for one year if they make girls pregnant, in addition to about 10 strokes.

 As for adult males causing teen pregnancies,  we need to revisit the punishments currently in place. Imprisonment for  over 20 years ,  or currently  30 years,  will not elicit cooperation of either the community or the girls and their parents. Imagine having someone imprisoned for 30 years for actions that may be we both enjoyed or was pure  accident,  or was a rape case . These are   difficult decisions, given that some of those men are family friends or village mates. Imprisonment for only about five years may  be quite effective in inhibiting the rape or teen sex behaviors and enhance  community cooperation. One thing that should not be done is to force them to marry as forced marriages do not work or last long!!!

One final observation is on the variety of causes of teen pregnancies. A few girls might have solicited sex for other favors, including money and love but there are many who got raped, got coerced, got into all kinds of traps and predicaments associated with poverty. 

Thus,  even punishments should vary with the cause or circumstances around  which the pregnancy occurred. If it is indeed a rape case,  the girl should be allowed back to school easily and earliest. If it was contemplated love affair, few strokes per week when back to school would send the message saying:  “Do not do it again.” Otherwise, giving a blanket punishment for all the incidents of teen pregnancies is inhuman, unjust, and inequitable. Let us learn from lawyers: “ Murder  for deliberate killing and Manslaughter for accidental killing.”

Finally, let us think of our children. All these teen pregnant girls are still our children and citizens of our country. Let us extend love rather than permanent hatred. I am happy we are not using moral judgment as could be bordering subjectivity  as none of us is pure. If we educate university  and college mums we can educate teen mums too. Morality has no age limits.Issa Mcholo Omari; PhD, Professor, Education PsychologyTelex: 0655 332541 or 0713 331541