MAUN: The Ngami Regional Health Management Team (RHMT) has recorded a total of 528 pregnancies since January to date.
The number includes underage girls who are still at primary school level.
Most stay alone in child headed homes or have parents staying or working outside of Maun.
Speaking at a Parent Child Communication Dialogue on Sexuality Education Agenda on Monday, Youth Friendly Service nurse Keneilwe Thankane of the RHMT stated that it is highly likely that the numbers might escalate considering that a lot more incidents have still not been reported to the relevant authorities and therefore not recorded.
“This is a very big number and we are worried as a district. Our investigations have revealed that there are parents out there who still do not care for their children and do not consider their needs, frustrations and concerns as they grow into adulthood. Children end up exploring things on their own and fall into traps unaware.”
“They fall pregnant and end up terminating pregnancies long before their parents would have noticed since they are absent in their children’s lives. This on its own is a high risk because first and foremost concealing of pregnancy is illegal in this country. They also take concoctions that have detrimental side effects which might even lead to maternal deaths”.
Another observation according to Thankane has been that most pregnancies occurred during the first quarter of 2020 when 221 pregnancies were reported. Out of this number, four were young girls below the age of fifteen. The last batch of 107 was recorded between the months of July-September and most girls were at the time primary and Junior Secondary students. Because of the apparent lack of communication on issues of sexuality, Thankane said it is feared that these young girls might as well contracts Sexually Transmitted Diseases as they are vulnerable and therefore prone to so many social ills. The poor background at some families has also been seen as another contributing factor as it has been established that some parents engage in sexual activities while their children watch since they share the only house in the family, mostly one roomed houses which they are forced to share.
“As a result children grow up with the urge to try what they might have seen happening under their noses. These are just some of the sad realities we face as a society. They are very common in this part of the country as poverty levels grow almost daily. However, I personally believe that tough as they might be, there is still a lot that can be done, and this can only be achieved through concerted efforts from all stakeholders”, she said.
Principal Education Officer at the Ministry of Education (Department Curriculum Development and Evaluation) Jane Gaongalelwe pointed out that some cultures are to blame as they prohibit parents from having dialogues with their children. She said the case of Ngamiland is a sad one because it is in this region where some tribes still give their children away in the form of arranged marriages, sometimes with men old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers and thus automatically engage in sexual activities at a young age.
She noted that although culturally sensitive, some topics are age appropriate and need to be discussed openly.
“All that is needed is for parents to come up with strategies on how to go about discussing these issues because by so doing they will also be protecting their children from harmful practices. However, this seems to be a farfetched dream as we have learnt that most parents choose to benefit financially or otherwise from the same perpetrators who abuse their children.
In some instances, they hike their children’s ages so as to safe these men from serving jail time if found guilty of either rape, incest or defilement”.
Gaongalelwe also pointed an accusing a finger at some members of the community whom she said prefer to be bystanders and do not report these shocking incidents even when they know the harm brought by rapists within their communities.
Her sentiments were echoed by chairperson of Maun Ministers Fraternal Terrence Sechele who shared that churches are equally concerned about the growing number of pregnancy occurrences which are swept under the carpert.
He said because some of these young girls are members of the various church denominations, they also take it upon themselves as the church leadership to make own investigations and follow ups as a way of showing their much -needed support.
He said they have established through their investigations that indeed some families are reluctant in doing right by their kids. The misconception that churches have a tendency to suspend or expel members who fall pregnant out of wedlock, he said, is an erroneous belief.