The country is facing a crisis if this is an all-year-round phenomenon.
These were the words of Education CS Amina Mohamed while reacting to reports that more than 30 KCPE candidates had given birth in the course of the three-day exam.
And true to her words, the number was higher than imagined.
More than 100 pregnant girls sat the exam in Kilifi county alone.
Reported cases of births were many, but this report examines the few that made headlines due to their peculiar nature.
Some of the candidates gave birth in school, others on their way to school while others in health facilities.
Overall, an estimated 200 girls gave birth in the course of the 2018 KCPE and KCSE exams, putting to question the country’s societal norms and the quality of parenting.
Among the first births to be reported occurred at Misuuni Primary School in Mbitini Ward, Kitui Rural constituency, Kitui county.
The girl gave birth as she sat for the English language paper at her school.
She developed labour pains in the exam room and was assisted by the head teacher, Naomi Mbaki, and KCPE officials.
She gave birth to a girl.
She later wrote her English composition paper at a health facility as her baby lay in the hospital’s women wing.
A similar scenario played out at Voroni Primary School in Kwale County after a candidate gave birth on the first day of the exam.
She developed labor pains moments before the Mathematics paper and was rushed to Kwale Hospital where she delivered and sat the exam.
This was the first such case to be reported in the county.
“We are happy that the girl delivered without any complications,” a source at the hospital said.
On October 31, the second day of the exam reported more childbirths at school on the coast.
They include one at Longo Primary who delivered a boy at Mrima Hospital in Likoni and one at Tswaka Primary in Lunga Lunga.
Two other births were reported at Milalani and Ndio Hivyo primary schools in Kinango and Msambweni in Kwale county.
In Elgeyo Marakwet, one candidate did her exams at the AIC Kapsowar Mission Hospital’s maternity ward after she had her baby.
Elsewhere in Nyakach, a 14-year-old girl from St Alloys Primary School gave birth at Katito Health Centre after she developed labor pains a few minutes before the exams started.
On the last day of the exams, Kitui County was in the news again after an 18-year old candidate at Makongo Primary School gave birth to a boy on November 1.
In all incidents, candidates were allowed to proceed with their exams, either in class or hospital.
However, in Narok East, 31 pupils from different schools opted not to sit the papers as they dropped out due to pregnancy.
Kilifi County bears the brunt
At least 270 primary school girls were reported pregnant in Kilifi over the period the exams got underway.
Latest statistics from the County Children’s Department at the time indicated that over 13,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 were expectant in the county.
A report by the county children’s officer George Migosi said Kilifi North recorded the highest pregnancies out of the county’s seven constituencies.
It had 3,134 pregnancies, followed by Magarini with 2,861 cases, Kaloleni (2,180), while Malindi and Kilifi South had 1,771 cases each.
Ganze registered 1,362 cases while Rabai had 545 cases.
The cases were blamed on high rates of poverty, illiteracy, and defilement.
A report by Plan International in 2016 said the adolescents often had their first sexual encounter during disco matanga – dances held at night during funeral ceremonies.
The discos have not been completely wiped out despite a ban by the county government, but a positive response has been recorded.
A section of residents criticized the ban saying the root cause of teenage pregnancies is poor upbringing and negligence by parents.
In KCSE, Kitui county took the lead in registering the highest number of candidates that gave birth during exams.
By November 8, just two days after the exams kicked off, 41 candidates had already given birth while 72 others were still pregnant.
Read: KCSE pregnancies; 72 expectant, 38 new mums
Kitui County Education Officer Salesa Adano said what was more puzzling was that no parent appeared concerned over the unusual phenomenon.
“No parent has raised a red flag. No parent has said ‘look, something is happening with my daughter’. Not a single chief has raised, not a single community member,” Adano said.
The education officials said it was not possible for the department to establish who was responsible for the pregnancies noting that it could be anybody – young boys, adults, or senior people.
He said his department had grown nervous, not knowing what to do with the number of teenage pregnancies within the county.
Around the same time, 20 other candidates were reported to have given birth while sitting exams in Bomet county.
Education stakeholders in the county came under the spotlight especially after it emerged that 13 of the cases were reported at the same school – St Monica Secondary School.
More than 30 KCSE candidates were also reported to be pregnant in Narok county over that period.
Given the alarming rate of pregnancies, two parents whose children fell pregnant and an independent candidate moved to court to compel the examination council to set up supplementary examination for students who fall pregnant.
They wanted candidates who give birth within one and three months of sitting national exams to be allowed to do supplementary exams.
“If the court does find that the petition is merited the supplementary examination be administered at least three months after the last date of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations” they stated in the petition.
Course of action
On November 1, the final day of the KCSE exam, education officials sounded a warning against men who impregnate schoolgirls.
“We will arrest even if it is parents and guardians who might be behind these pregnancies that are against the children’s act,” PS Belio Kipsang said at Nyamachaki Primary School in Nyeri county.
Speaking in Nairobi on the same day, Amina said the ministry will go after abusers to make sure that they provide support for these babies.
“If we don’t find the culprits, we must come together as a society to do exactly that,” she said at the Lang’ata women prison.
“Let the quality assurance and standards department work with relevant departments to investigate the cases and give me a report for further action,” she added.
Knec chairman George Magoha on his part urged the ICT ministry to consider shutting down all porn sites which he blamed for the rise in teen pregnancies in the country.
ICT CS Joe Mucheru later said it’s a proposal the ministry is considering implementing.