Telling the truthful tales of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria might be both tasking and daunting, especially in the Northern part of the country, where people tend to trample upon the truthful once-upon-a-time-stories about how pregnant teenagers are vulnerable victims of tragedy of all sorts.
Pathetic enough, bathetic stories are told to deceive innocent girls on the scourge of teenage pregnancy and child marriage controversy. The reason for this is not farfetched — poverty and illiteracy have made many Nigerians have inaccurate impressions about 'teenage pregnancy'.
Meanwhile, teenage pregnancy, also called unwanted pregnancy has become a bane in the society. Underage girls are caught in the mess of being put into the family way. This has become rampant in the society, most especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. It has led many young ladies to early graves as a result of unsuccessful abortions; the youngsters also drop out of schools, consequently. In fact, teenage pregnancy is a costly mistake that leads to stigmatization.
According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria still has 10.5 million out-of-school children — the world’s highest number. Sixty per cent of those children are in northern Nigeria. About 60 per cent of out-of-school children are girls. Many of those who do enroll drop out early. Truth be told, both unwanted and unwarranted pregnancies of teenagers are reasons behind the aforestated data.
By the way, who, by convention are teenagers? They are set of youngsters from age 13-19; therefore, they are considered minors. Most of the children who fall under the aforementioned age bracket are still very much under the roof of their parents. If by means of involving in intimate affairs, they are put into the family way; in the case of a female, they find it difficult in raising these babies, for they are themselves being brought up. As a result, there is a defect in taking care and in the upbringing of the so-called children.
Teenage pregnancy will most likely result in single parenting, whereby a single parent, usually the mother, raises the child alone and sadly, the young individual will be raised without a male figure which is extremely important for the child’s development as this defect can result in behavioral and antisocial problems later in life.
Undoubtedly, child marriage is a core causality of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria, particularly, it is more or less a tradition in the Northern part of the country. As at today, child marriage is still widespread in the northern part of Nigeria, having the highest rate of child marriages and early pregnancies with one significant reason owing to the lower level of literacy.
The explanation given is that, the higher the level of education, the higher the level of knowledge of contraceptives use, awareness about risks and many complications associated with early pregnancy. Thus, often times, teenage pregnancy and early marriage go hand-in-hand and may be inseparable. It is well understood that teenage pregnancy is mainly amongst underage teens, who indulge in unsafe sexual practices that lead to unwanted pregnancy and chiefly, the girl child suffers the consequences in most cases. Sadly, the girl child suffers the stigma of the society when she carries around a protruding stomach amidst her peers. Worse still, stigma may come from friends, society and even her family members and relatives and eventually becoming a school dropout.
Aside the fact that this act is socially repulsive, it is also morally unacceptable. However, morals are sometimes relative just like religion. Nevertheless, these practices need to be curbed. Early marriage, most times, is done as a camouflage to minimize stigmatization for the female child.
For girls aged 15-19, risks are more associated with biological effects of age such as risks of low birth weight of the infant, pattern and prolonged labour, premature rupture of fetal membrane and more are observed in teen births, even after controlling for other factors such as accessing good pre-natal care. Also, post natal risks include complications, VVF (Vesicovaginal fistula), and in some cases, death during labour and more.
A depressed and naïve teenage girl who finds herself in this situation would do anything just to be relieved of the trauma of being pregnant with no opposite gender or relatives to take responsibility for the shameful pregnancy. She might consider going for abortion, which may cause intense damage to her body system or even lead to her death.
Furthermore, teenage pregnancy and child marriage contribute rapidly to the robust population of this country. The reason behind this mindset is that statistics show disparities within the geo-political zones of Nigeria as follows: North-West (36%), North-East (32%), North-Central (19%), South-South (12%), South-East (8%) and South West (8%). This report shows prevalence of child pregnancy in the northern parts of Nigeria and it has a significant effect on the natality rate. Thus, considering the country’s economic status as at now, it is important to keep control of the birth-rate in the country.
For possible solutions, it is recommended that orientation agencies should initiate programmes aimed directly at sensitizing these minors on sex education and the dangers associated with it and more.
However, Nigeria is a closeted country; sexual issues are not discussed freely. Advocates of sex education in schools have met stiff resistance from teachers and religious leaders who say that such education would promote immorality. This should not be a factor of discouragement because this movement will help these youngsters learn that the future is more important than any other thing and can truly be enjoyed as an educated individual.
In conclusion, parents are advised to keep a close watch on their wards and render attention whenever it is needed of them from their children to prevent uneventful happenings. Parents should also monitor closely the level of exposure of their youngsters and the kind of company they keep. Promoting education of the girl child and economic empowerment of young girls will reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy and the high complication rate associated with it. Moral education should also not to be left out.
Olanipekun Muniraht is a student journalist from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto