DOUBLE MEDALS: A LOOMING DANGER, AN UNENDING MENACE
A few months ago, many news portals online, sound, print and television carried a story about President John Dramani Mahama promising to reward the taxi driver who thwarted the escape of the two robbers involved in the Cantonments robbery incident with an apartment. The announcement was made by the Vice President K. B. Amissah-Arthur when he hosted the taxi driver, Nana Yaw, at the Flagstaff House. He also commended the taxi driver for his heroic act. Two days after honoring the invite to the Flagstaff House, the Management of KOALA Supermarket presented a new Chevrolet Optra Saloon Car to the taxi driver who foiled a robbery attack on a KOALA employee, (Lydia Horsu) at Cantonments in Accra. The presentation was in fulfilment of a promise made to the taxi driver after his heroic deed came to light.
Many people are being rewarded with double medals on daily basis for the good deeds and exceptional behavior like Nana Yaw. However, the story happens to be different for many young teenage girls in both rural and urban areas across Ghana. Whilst some students are gaining double medals such as regional and national awards for their distinguishing performance in BECE, others complete with pregnancies or a baby and terrible results. Theirs unfortunately, is double agony! The rate at which cases of teenage pregnancy are recorded annually during such a period is very alarming.
The attention of Ghanaians has been called severally towards teenage pregnancy. Getting to the end of every academic year when Junior High School students take their Basic Education Certification Examination (BECE), one often hear on the news about some girls turning up to write their papers pregnant. Statistics from most exam centers may vary however across the ten regions of Ghana; for example in the Eastern region alone, 33 females failed to sit their exam as a result of pregnancy in 2009. The Western region recorded 572 teenage pregnancies with girls as young as 10 getting pregnant and dropping out of schools. In the Ashanti Region at least 5 girls wrote their BECE while pregnant and a minimum of 3 as mothers. The average age of these girls is 15 per statistics from most centers where cases of this nature have been recorded. The statistics are much higher and worrisome in other regions of Ghana. Last year, the female caucus of Parliament in the month of July, 2015 expressed their worry about the growing phenomenon. Alarmed at the statistics, the women of the house then followed up with a news conference together with queen mothers from the Central Region, where the menace is on the rise. Close to 14,000 teenagers in the region got pregnant last year indicating a 64% increase in the region over the previous years. Teenage births form a high percentage of the total births in the country.
Consequentially, teenagers who get pregnant are solely blamed for their condition and may forever not recover from the slip whilst the male culprits in most cases go scot-free to pursue the personal interest including impregnating other teenagers.
The causes of this menace though numerous primarily is poverty. We no more
adore the educated; we glorify wealth whether gotten legally or not. In the rural areas some parents literally push their teenage girls into unhealthy relations so as to get some peanut. Most urban parents on the other hand leave home at dawn returning when children are asleep oblivion of what is going on.
A lot of parents usually do not know where their children/wards would be after that Saturday afternoon class or the evening church rehearsals. We are always busy attending social gatherings and functions such as funerals, weddings and others to the detriment of being with the children. The case of homes with single parent may be worse. Others also don’t really mind allowing their children hang out around the mall for so long meeting friends and even strangers who could be older than they are.
Unfortunately, gone are the days when the upbringing of a child is the responsibility of the society one belongs to as a whole. We have become nucleus and one dare not correct a “straying” or wayward child.
It is also true many adolescents report pressured by their peers to have sex before they are ready. Children who are not shown love and affection from parents will seek it out from their peers. Others argue that, primarily low self-esteem is among the major causes of teen pregnancy. Let us face it, the proliferation of obscenity on our television stations in the name of modernity is also a major cause. We as a people swallow everything foreign hook, line and sinker! The telenovelas especially have come to adulterate our culture. I must confess that moral degeneration of modern day Ghana is a leading cause of teenage pregnancy and this is as a result of what our teenagers see on television these days.
Gone are the days when an un-married teenage girl that gets pregnant is regarded as bringing shame to the family! In recent news, a mother in the Northern region butchered her 22 year old pregnant daughter. Murder suddenly becomes less of a crime in the eyes of a disappointed mother as though pregnancy ever where a crime. Those were the days when “kayayei” apart from being adults had homes they could return to at the close of the day. Most were responsible mothers. There was no streetism then, and parents will not frown on the disciplining of the children by relatives and others in their society.
(In South Africa) today, To protect teenage girls from HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy in the Uthukela district located on the eastern sides of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, the district leadership is making a ‘good example’ out of 16 supposedly virgin teenage girls by granting them a conditional scholarship to the University. Double medals? The lucky 16 girls that secured themselves the scholarship will have to take regular virginity test to continue receiving the bursary. As expected, this did not only received its fair share of condemnation by some Human Rights organizations based in South Africa, but it has generated a huge and mixed reactions and discussions amongst many people.
Recently, I listened to some young participants at this year’s Afri-One Youth Forum, held at the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Dzworwulu- Accra, debate amongst themselves on how a similar move in Ghana, could help encourage teenage girls to stay chaste.
Poor education on sexual health and reproductive health rights is wrecking the lives of many girls in Ghana. Many girls and women after giving birth are not able to continue their education. The few, who do, go home with very bad grades and do not make it to senior high school. Instead of providing a support system they are punished to serve as a deterrent and in some societies they are left to their fate or even kicked out of their homes while others are ridiculed by the hour. One would think perhaps it is possible for girls to get pregnant all by themselves. However, the nonexistence of a supportive system for pregnant girls encourages unsafe abortions, complications and deaths. Good nutritional therapy and ante-natal care is often not mentioned as rights for pregnant girls.
THE WAY FORWARD:
Sadly, teenage pregnancy has gradual become part of our culture now everywhere; we as a nation have to come to terms with it and find ways and means to reduce this scourge to the barest minimum. It is not enough talking about it. What are the chances of the teenage mother rising up from the dust to an enviable position in life? What will the future of the children born to this unfortunate girls going to be without proper care and up-bring? Or theirs too will be a kind of vicious circle? It is time the issue is tackled with all the energy and resources it requires.
This will require two prong efforts (action?) – at home and at school. Teachers will have to be empowered by the provision of the necessary tools, books and other resources to teach sex education without parents kicking against it. The government comes in here. Parents must support the teachers; after all the teachers are only playing a complimentary role.
· Providing positive role modeling: In the past, most children had role models and parents do go to extent of selecting people they will want their child to be like. Whether the children of today know of role models is another issue. It is time parents feed the children/wards with positive role models irrespective of one status in society.
· Parents must create the conducive atmosphere in their homes whether they are financially sound or not to make the child want to stay and learn. It is not always about money!
· Families with two parents in the home have a lower incidence of teen pregnancies. However, even as a single parent, you can still extend the love, affection, and care your child needs. As a single parent you have less time for yourself, but your child needs a positive role model.
· Knowing where your teens are going and whom they are with is basic Parenting 101. If you don't know the kids they are hanging out with, get to know them. Allow your teenage child to have friends over; but make sure you educate them on the repercussions of any wrongful choices he or she will make. Where possible, get to know the parents of their friends.
· Agreed it is not possible to hang on your teenage child like a fly to flypaper. So, give him/her the tools to make good decisions. Talk to him/her about sex and birth control, and the causes of teen pregnancy. You wouldn't want to withhold information about preventing type 2 diabetes, so why would you withhold how to prevent teen pregnancy or STDs? In recent times, YOLO (a popular TV series on adolescent reproductive health) offers parents and teens an opportunity to discuss issues of adolescent reproductive health.
· Be the parent your teenage child needs. Be available and interested in their lives. Ask questions. Set rules and stick by them. Be the bad guy because that is the job you signed up for when you had children. Above all, lead them with love.
Sampson Adotey Jnr
Volunteer, Odekro (www.odekro.org)
THANKS FOR READING.......
THANKS FOR READING.......