When she found out in August last year that she was pregnant, Millicent Chepkemoi, 14, nearly gave up on achieving her academic dream.
Chepkemoi, then preparing to sit for the just concluded 2021 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination decided that she had wasted a prized opportunity to become who she wanted in life- a doctor and resolved she had had enough of school.
Her family and relatives, however, encouraged her and managed to convince her to resume and push on with her studies at Mauche primary school within Njoro Sub County.
“Going back to school was a bold decision. The school environment would sometimes be hostile because at any given moment someone would be pointing at me as an example that other young girls should not follow.
I learnt from my personal experience that, scores of girls who get pregnant experience stigma and discrimination when they go back to school,” she said.
She adds, “My dream is to become a doctor and I know I will pursue it; it won’t be a challenge as such, I am confident my parents and villagers will continue demonstrating the support they have extended to me for the past 7 months.”
Elsewhere, almost 40 kilometres away in Rongai Sub County, a similar scenario was unfolding where Doreen Chepkomen, also aged 14, was contemplating terminating her education after being put in the family way by her classmate at Testai Primary School.
Her mother, Veronica Koech says that despite her daughter getting pregnant, she underscored to her the essence of continuing with her studies.
“I believe that one day, she will succeed and elevate us. I have nothing in my home that is why I encouraged my daughter to go back to school and work hard so that we get out of poverty. She is a very bright pupil,” says Koech.
As fate would have it both Chepkomen and Chepkemoi wrote their KCPE Christian Religious Education and Social Studies papers at Margaret Kenyatta Mother and Baby Wing at the Nakuru Level 5 Teaching Hospital after delivering bouncing babies.
Chepkomen was blessed with a baby girl weighing 3.3 kilograms on Monday evening, while Chepkemoi delivered a baby boy weighing 3.1 kilograms on Tuesday afternoon.
Chepkomen says to arrive at the difficult decision of going back to school while pregnant, she had to weather many storms including ridicule from the community for ‘going back to school while a mother’.
She affirms, “Everything is a sacrifice. I am determined to catch-up when I join form one. My dream to become a lawyer will not be a reality through magic, but through sweat, determination and hard work.”
She is determined to become an inspiration in an area where education is still not taken so seriously. Her thirst for education, she vows, has not been derailed by her new status as a teenage mother and numerous obstacles she has faced.
According to Nakuru County deputy police commander, Joseph Tonui who arranged for the girls’ security at the medical facility, the two teenage mothers were strong and in good health to proceed with their exams though with close supervision and medical assistance.
Tonui indicated that an officer from the medical health facility attended to the young mothers and confirmed that there was no post-delivery complication for both newborns and mothers.
Chepkomen indicates that she will be delighted to join the Kenya High School for her secondary education while it is Chepkemoi’s prayer that she will receive a calling letter from Alliance Girls High School.
According to Chepkomen, the God she prays, her parents and friends have been great pillars and played a great supporting role in her studies.
Chepkemoi offers, “It is about involving God in whatever you do. With humility and self-belief, everything is possible. I will pursue my secondary studies with zeal so that I earn the respect that comes with being educated.
Chepkomen’s mother reveals that her daughter was impregnated by her long time playmate and that she found it difficult to report the matter to authorities.
”My daughter was impregnated by her fellow pupil; people were telling me to report but I couldn’t because they are both ‘children’ without national identity cards,” she says’.
She adds that she is still optimistic about Chepkomen’s academic performance, whom she describes as a bright student and will support her to join high school and to fulfill her dream to become a doctor.
According to the Kenya Health Information System data, 151,433 became pregnant in January-May 2020, compared to 175,488 for the same period in 2019.
These girls have a right to stay in school without fear and discrimination from peers, teachers and society at large. According to the data this will only happen if the Ministry of Education implements the National Guidelines for School Re-Entry in Early Learning and Basic Education.
The guidelines stipulate that “a learner who is pregnant shall be allowed to remain in school as long as possible in line with existing education policies in Kenya among other measures.
What the guidelines do not specifically mention is how to prepare teachers, classmates and peers in accepting the pregnant girl without discrimination, stigma and judgment.
Education experts recommend that schools should have a conversation about sex and pregnancy with all students and emphasis on the right to education irrespective of disability, status and pregnancy.
Moreover, teachers should be empathetic, compassionate, and sensitive to pregnant adolescents and be sensitized about their personal bias, attitudes and beliefs that harm pregnant girls.