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Keeping girls in school

School children during a class in Kenya
Plan International Kenya is working to keep girls in school despite the local prevalence of teenage pregnancy and early marriage.

Plan International Kenya is a leading voice in the education sector, and our learning programme has the overall goal of increasing access to quality education, especially for vulnerable groups of children.

Our work focuses on ensuring that boys and girls, as well as their parents, are able to play a full and active role in school governance, and supporting the improvement of the learning environment for boys and girls.

At just 14, Rita* was forced to drop out of school after it was discovered she was pregnant. According to her mother, Rebecca, she was ridiculed by her peers.

Rebecca is a mother of 6, and knew that her daughter had been made pregnant by an older man. She reported the matter as a child abuse case to the school head teacher, who forwarded the case to Margaret Matasa, a Volunteer Children’s Officer.

“Cases of early pregnancies among primary school girls are very widespread in this location,” says Matasa. “Monthly, at least 5 to 6 cases are reported. The numbers could be higher because there are those cases that go unreported.”

According to Matasa, cultural practices such as village dances and funerals are largely to blame for the rising teenage pregnancies. This is because such festivities attract a large crowd of unsupervised children who are likely to engage in risky behaviour.

The culture of tolerance that seems to normalise issues of early pregnancy and child marriage is also to blame, she says.

Kilifi County has one of the highest incidences of child pregnancy leading to school dropouts in the county.

Unfortunately for most poor, rural girls, early pregnancy marks the end of their education, as they are forced into marriage.  Child marriage stands at 47.4%, according to research conducted by Plan International Kenya in 2012.

To improve the reporting of cases of child abuse, Plan International Kenya has formed a partnership with the Kilifi County Director of Children’s Services to launch a mobile application dubbed ‘VuruguMapper’, which helps map cases of abuse against children across communities.

With the help of the application, Rita’s case is currently in court and has been tracked since it was first reported in November 2014.

Unlike in the past when cases took several days to get to the authorities, such cases instantly get to the authorities. The department has so far tracked over 250 cases of child abuse, including those from the most remote of places, where locals are unable to access help from the authorities.