Sunday, October 25, 2020

Settlement suffers high teenage pregnancy rates

Residents of a small Basarwa settlement 45 km from Molepolole are lamenting the ever increasing number of pregnancies in the village, especially among school going girls.

Kolobetso Lekollwane, a volunteer with the home-based care programme, revealed to The Sunday Standard that the young girls of Serinane Village give birth at high rates, and lamented that the pregnancies are not planned.

A visit to the village on World AIDS Day led to a discovery that would cause one to shutter the thought of raising their own family.

“A lot of these children are orphans, you find about 10 children in the same homestead sharing a small hut!” she exclaimed.

Young girls were running around playing with toddlers in a nearby shade from where we sat with the interviewee and the village chief who also expressed concern for the stride teenage pregnancy has taken. The young toddlers running around could easily be mistaken for the girl’s siblings whereas, in fact, they are their own children!

Lekollwane, points out two young boys who are barely a year apart, “Their mother is not here, she is in confinement. She has another 2 month old baby, and she is barely a grown woman.” She says as the Chief Shorty Matatso nods besides her.

An elderly woman sitting across adds, “One just gave birth the day before yesterday.”

“Yes,” Lekollwane agrees. “She is only fourteen years old. She is an orphan and stays with her grandmother.”

“They just can’t stop having babies, there are too many pregnancies,” she says. She also reveals that there might be between 300 and 400 small babies in the settlement, though she did not have the proper records.

The small settlement does not have a clinic and the residents rely on visits by health officials, which they get twice a month or otherwise travel 45 km to Molepolole where they can access the hospital or clinics. The birth and pregnancy rates could not be validated because of the absence of a health facility.

The family of the fourteen year old mother stays in a yard with two small dilapidated huts and one incomplete 3 room concrete house. We find her grandmother seated in front of the incomplete house taking her snuff and we are led into the yard by two other girls, one is 16 years old and reveals that she is the older sister to the new mother. The other one is a cousin and is in Standard 5.

The young mother stands in the house wrapped in a blue shawl. Her innocent face defies motherhood.

“She had not even completed standard 7,” the grandmother reveals to The Sunday Standard.
Sitting with the teenage mother opens a Pandora’s Box laying out a lot of hurt buried in her and her caretaker.

The grandmother points to a yard across from hers. “The boy responsible for this stays right there, but he denied my granddaughter and the baby,” she says, adding that even the boy’s mother denies her son’s responsibility over this issue.

The distraught old lady told the Sunday Standard that the matter was now being looked into by the social workers.
“They were just here a few minutes before you came.”
She, however, couldn’t hide the fact that she had lost hope.
“They might just decide to let it go, if they do then I too won’t bother. I did my part by letting them know. There is nothing more I can do,” she sadly said.

The young mother whose name or family name won’t be revealed for their own protection told the Sunday Standard that she was seeing the 22-year-old man since she was in Standard six. She said that she told him when she missed her first period.
“We started having sex when I was in standard 7. He told me to wait a little longer and watch if I miss my other period. But he wanted to do nothing with the baby in the end,” she said.

“I gave birth to a boy in Molepolole. The nurses named him Kennedy,” she continued. “I did not know what to name him, even if it was a girl I wouldn’t know.”
Her eyes fill up with tears and fails to maintain eye contact.

She also told the Sunday Standard her desire to go back to school in January next year.

The grandmother interrupts and points out, “Did that one tell you she is also expecting?” she asks, pointing to the Standard 5 cousin who, with the elder sister, had led us to the house. The young girl takes offence by pointing out that she is not pregnant but leaves immediately to avoid the now awkward situation.

In the village, another young girl with a baby clinging to her back reveals that she dropped out of school but can’t remember when. The baby on her back is her second born. “My eldest daughter is at home with her father,” she said.

Three other visibly pregnant young girls, barely fourteen, run around playing with the other children.

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