It is my view that teen pregnancies need to be addressed in schools by having honest discussions with students.
Teenage students need to be told how difficult it is raising a baby and that it ain’t cool if you are young and dependent on your parents.
In Bugandi and Bumayong secondary, it was a message I tried as much as possible to pass on to the students.
“Forget those steady possessive relationships that tend to develop inside and outside school boundaries. It gives you a high but they’re the most dangerous.
“They lead to sex and then to unwanted pregnancies. These are pregnancies neither the parents nor the ‘kid parents’ can handle.”
My point was that we are dealing with is a serious crisis.
Five out of every 100 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 become pregnant. These are scary statistics. It means, our health systems, our families, our schools are becoming increasingly burdened. Ultimately, our economy is burdened.
Our labor wards are filled with girls who come expecting children and young fathers who come pretending to see their ‘sisters’ who are about to go into labor. It is a crisis that needs to be talked about with brutal honesty.
Teenagers who become pregnant usually have little support from their male partners. They are unable to complete school. Many lose support from their parents.
Today, parenting is far more complicated. Should I give a child internet access on his mobile phone by buying credits? Or should I just give them a phone to call me.
I guess it made some staff uncomfortable when I talked about the use of mobile phones and the production of pornography by teenagers. I wanted girls to know that the nude selfie sent to their supposed ‘special friend’ is never kept secret for long.
It is shared as a trophy or it is kept as something used to blackmail a girl after a break up.
I’ve seen too many cases to just be an observer who reports about the suicides, the beatings , the blackmail that happens in secret and the public controversy that destroys the girl.
For the boys, it’s about taking responsibility and doing the right thing. It’s tough for a teenager with little support from home seeking legitimacy in a school environment. It is a complex situation that needs a lot of discussion so boys feel comfortable to talk about the urge for sex as a teenager.
In Papua New Guinea, sex is a difficult thing for many parents to talk about. It needs to be done honestly, in baby steps and it needs to be done early.
For teenagers, one fact needs to be acknowledged by parents: They have a lot more access to information than 20 years ago.
So the discussions have to be frank.
A 21st century parent needs to let their teen know that you know what they have access to… that you disapprove of the bad stuff and that you have a right to check their phones, to know who their friends are and to know where they are.
It is an important time to talk about what your own life as a teen. To pretend that your own life was innocent and theirs isn’t , is certainly NOT a good start.