By Mary Taruvinga
UNITED Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has revealed that over 6 000 teenage girls dropped out of school due to early unintended pregnancies (EUP) in 2018 alone.
The organisation’s country director, Hubert Gijen said according to their findings, a total of 37 081 children left school countrywide in 2018.
Out of that number, he said, 6 159 were girls who dropped out due to EUP.
Gijen was speaking at the launch of the EUP campaign at Makomo Primary School in Epworth, Harare recently.
“It is reality of early unintended pregnancies, a reality where adolescents’ fertility remains high amongst girls aged between 15 and 19 in Zimbabwe.
“And this is at 21 percent; that means one out of five girls is falling pregnant in that age group,” he said.
Gijen said rural girls were more prone to the undesirable situation than their urban peers.
“The pregnancy rate shot up to 37 percent to girls who only completed primary education as compared to 17 of those who completed secondary education.”
Speaking at the same event, Education Minister, Paul Mavhima said his government is committed on re-entry of girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy.
“Access and attendance are very important,” said the Minister.
“It is also important that they begin schooling early. This is why we are emphasising early childhood development and we are teaching Guidance and Counselling from as early as five years with appropriate messages.”
First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, also the country’s health ambassador, officiated at the event.
In her speech, she said she was worried about consequences of EUP adding the best way forward was to groom adolescents on how to avert this.
“The increased risk of both mother and baby occur during teenage pregnancy,” she said.
“Other negative consequences resulting from EUP include low income, increased school dropouts, lower educational levels and increased rates of substance abuse.”
Recently, UNESCO national associate project officer Masimba Nyamucheta told reporters at a workshop in Mazowe that the drivers vary from poverty, lack of education, geographic location and cultural beliefs.
In Zimbabwe, according to Nyamucheta, Mashonaland Central has the highest incidence of EUP due to illegal gold mining and farming activities among other things.