By IJEOMA POPOOLA
For fear of facing public reproach, Susan, a student, ran away with her three-month-old pregnancy to a village in the outskirts of Ibadan with the collaboration of her mother, the teenage girl relocated to her aunt’s house where she gave birth to a baby girl and nursed her for one year. Susan, thus, dropped out of school and took to petty trading to meet the needs of her baby, Ajoke.
Numerous Nigerian teenage girls suffer the same fate with Susan, as those considered brilliant among them have had to abandon their education while their future is jeopardised due to unwanted pregnancy. A medical doctor, Miss Martina Opara, says that unguided adolescents are easily impregnated because of the physiological developments taking place in them she explains that teenagers are easily excited sexually because of the biological changes in their bodies, including production of sex hormones. The doctor advocates that adolescents should be made to understand these physiological changes to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and notes that such pregnancies contribute to maternal and child mortality.
Opara explains that some of teenagers die during pregnancy because they are too young to have the babies, while others lose their lives because of the lack of care as the men who put them in the family way deny responsibility for the pregnancy in most cases. Analysts observe that some non-governmental organisations (NGOS), JP shown concern about teenage pregnancies and are tackling the menace. One of such organisations is the Association of Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), which has launched campaigns on adolescent reproductive health in many parts of the federation. According to the President of ARFH, Prof. Oladapo Oladipo, teenage pregnancies can be reduced through intensive adolescent reproductive health education, proper parental guidance and peer education. During a visit by some journalists to the ARFH Comlex in Ibadan recently, Oladapo explained that sexual urge was natural, but noted that sex education of adolescents would enable them to understand the implications of early sex.
He advised parents to redouble their effort in guiding their teenagers properly and instilling sound moral values and discipline in them. Oladapo is worried that teenage pregnancy and its attendance unsafe abortion and maternal mortality are a threat to adolescent reproductive health which, he says, is the key to the attainment Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in the area of improved child and maternal health. According to him, ARFH has trained a large number of peer educators to carry the campaign against teenage pregnancy to every part of the country.
In addition, the organisation has established a Youth Rescue Club to support the campaign.
Members of the club are mainly teenagers who have formed opinions on teenage pregnancy as result of their experience in the advocacy campaign. A secondary school leaver and the Public Relations Officer of the club, Mr. Olatunde Adedeji, blames teenage pregnancy on poverty, ignorance and inferiority complex by adolescents. He says teenage pregnancies are more rampant in the rural areas ravaged by poverty and ignorance. But a 20-year-old undergraduate, Miss Bushrah Fagbohun, does not believe that teenage pregnancy is restricted to the poor and ignorant parts of the country, teenage pregnancy is celebrated; in fact it is to show that one is a ‘big’ girl. “It is common in both public private schools. It also occurs in the urban centres,” the medical student of the Ladoke Akintola University. Ogbomoso, argues.
She advocates abstinence from sexual intercourse as the best way to avoid teenage pregnancy and adds that peer educators should possess the persuasive skill to convince teenagers to abstain from sex. You have to hammer it so much before they will listen to you.”
But Oreoluwa Kolawole, also an undergraduate, does not believe that all teenager can abstain from sex.
He says that it is, therefore, very important” to educate teenagers proper on their reproductive health.
Kolawole suggests that reproductive health education be incorporated into the school curriculum at all levels. This, he says, will enable teenagers to know when they are likely to be pregnant if they have sex.
Another peer educator, Tosin Odekunle, wonders why some informed teenagers St’ fall victim of unwanted pregnancy, but 19-year-old Ben John explains that sexual urge can be irresistible when a person’s level of control is low.
“When you are attracted to a girl, the urge comes on,” he says, adding that urge is triggered mainly by the sight of a woman’s exposed body. John expresses dismay at the skimpy dressing among teenagers now a days saying that it contributes to teenage pregnancy.
He advises male teenagers attracted to their female counterparts to overcome sexual urge by keeping a distance from the girls.
For 18-year-old Miss Tomi Adepoju, teenagers and women generally are provocative their dressing, claiming that the women dress to satisfy their tastes but end up provoking the men’s sexual urge ultimately inflicting teenage pregnancy and its resultant effects on the society. Adepoju appeals to teenagers to dress modesty to avoid seducing the men into having sex with them. “Girls should not be selfish in their dress they should consider the feelings of the men,” she says. The teenager, however, does not blame the females alone. she points Out that men also harass the teenage girls sexually by deliberately pulling down their jeans trousers to the waist in the fashion mode known as “saggy” or “baggy” trousers.
She blames the indecent dressing on fashion trends, but urges teenagers to be careful.
Adepoju also appeals to parents to inculcate sound morals, including decent dressing, in their children and wards.
Another peer educator, Yemi Konigbagbe, 19, expresses concern that parents to longer create time to inculcate morals and discipline in their children because of their quest for money. ‘ . Parents do not have time to guide their children anymore. This leads to all kinds of indiscipline, including sexual intercourse, among teenager ‘’ he says.
For Miss Chinenye Nwokoro, teenage pregnancy is not only caused by poverty, ignorance, inferiority complex and parental failure, but is culture-induced. She describes the culture of teenage wives in some parts of the country as worrisome. Nwokoro also notes that the quest for male children by parents contributes to the menace, saying that some parents who do not have male children encourage their teenage girls to get pregnant so they can possibly bear male children.
According to a Senior Programmes officer of ARFH, Mr. Oladapo Adeyemi, sexual intercourse is like a recreation for teenagers in the rural areas due to the lack of recreational facilities in the hinterland.1 expresses regret that this has bloated the number of teenage pregnancies. The official also points out that regular intercourse between male adults and teenagers is rampant in the rural areas.
“In February 2009, there was a case of a step-father having regular intercourse with his step-child”.
Adeyemi says that the non-domestication of the child Rights Act in some states of the federation hinders the prosecution of such cases. As the trend is becoming increasingly worrisome, analysts are calling collective effort in eradicating teenage pregnancy to facilitate Nigeria’s realisation of the fifth MDG on improved child and maternal health.