The Impact of Teenage Pregnancy on School Dropout among Secondary School Girls

Table of Contents



List of Tables and Figures


1.0 Introduction & Background of the Study
1.1 Problem Statement
1.2 Objectives of the Study
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Hypotheses
1.5 Scope of the Study
1.6 Justification of the Study
1.7 Significance of the Study
1.8 Limitations of the Study
1.9 Assumption of the Study

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Causes of Teenage Pregnancies
2.2 Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
2.3 Prevention and Remedial Measures of Teenage Pregnancies
2.4 Other causes of schoolgirl dropout
2.5 Efforts made in addressing Pregnancy- Related School dropout
2.6 Constraints Faced
2.7 Lessons Learnt

3.0 Study Area
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Target Population
3.3 Sampling Procedure
3.4 Data Collection Methods
3.5 Data Analysis Methods

4.0 Interview Guides
4.1 Questionnaires
4.2 Reports & Other Documents

Chapter 5: SUMMARY
5.0 Summary of Findings
5.1 Conclusion
5.2 Recommendations


Appendix 1: BUDGET


This research project is dedicated to my daughter Ryana, who has been my source of inspiration as I raise her and at the same time work towards my career goals.


This research project was a success through a participatory process that involved first and foremost my Supervisor, Ms. Kariuki of KIDS and the entire KIDS College. I also wish to acknowledge the officers at the District Education Office Embu District, the schools’ head teachers and their guidance & counseling teachers and students who made it possible for me to obtain the data.

Thank you all for making it possible for me to obtain this final report


1. Table 4.1a – Number of girls interviewed in different age groups

2. Pie Chart 4.1 – Illustration of number of girls interviewed in different age groups

3. Bar Chart 4.1c – Illustration in percentages of the girls already engaging sex with partners of different categories


Although considerable attention has been paid to the prevalence of adolescence childbearing in Kenya today, few studies have focused on the educational consequences of the schoolgirl pregnancy. Using data collected in selected schools in Embu Municipality, this study examines the factors associated with schoolgirl pregnancy as well as the likelihood of school dropout and subsequent re-enrollment of schoolgirls who become pregnant.

The analysis is derived from the data collected from secondary schoolgirls, education officials and teachers on factors that predispose girls to pregnancy, the extent to which teenage pregnancy contributes to school dropout and the eventual levels of re-admission. The data analysis shows that girls in secondary schools are actually already sexually active though they lack the relevant information to help them make the right choices as far as their sexuality is concerned. The little information that they have is not conclusive and it is evident that they yearn for information which would be useful for them.

Policy on re-admission has been formulated but the extent to which it is applied is still a questionable issue. A lot of gaps also exist in record keeping of the girls who become pregnant while in school and what becomes of them when they dropout. Such records would be vital in determining for sure if these girls become pregnant before dropping out of school or otherwise and subsequently tracking them down for re-admission purposes.

A question is then raised on what other factors would be causing these girls to drop out of school other than just the pregnancy. However, poverty, cultural practices and peer pressure are among the factors assumed to be predisposing girls to pregnancy from the findings of this study, while these factors in themselves would also cause dropouts. Given the increasing levels of female school participation in Kenya today through the affirmative action motion targeting the girl child, the findings of this study suggest that future studies will benefit from exploring the causal relationships between the factors mentioned above, adolescent reproductive health behavior and subsequent school attendance.


1.0 Introduction & Background of the study:

Pregnancy related school dropouts have become a matter of public concern in the world today. Several studies have shown that age at first intercourse is reducing, suggesting that today’s young adults are becoming sexually active at an increasingly younger ages. In addition, some studies have shown that few adolescents use contraceptives and are at risk of pregnancy (Kiragu, 1991; McCauley and Salter, 1995; Kiragu & Zabin, 1995). This results in situations such as dropping out of school, poverty, early marriage and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (DHS Charter book, 1992; Kane et. al., 1993; IIinigumugabo, 1995).

As reported in the December 2000 edition brief of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), in the developed countries such as the USA, early parenthood is seen to be adding a great burden to the already challenging navigation of adolescence. Each year, it is estimated that some 500,000 adolescent females become parents before completing high school in the United States. Research reports also indicate that the United States records the highest teen birth rates in the industrialized world, twice as high as that of the United Kingdom which is the developed nation with the second highest rate of teen pregnancy (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 1997). The educational stakes are also very high for young parents in the developed countries whereas a high percentage of young mothers drop out of school, making early motherhood the number one reason for dropping out of school among young girls in these countries.

In Africa, especially the sub-Saharan Africa countries, there are concerns about high rates of pregnancy-related school dropouts, also leading to the reported gender disparities in education in the developing world (Mensch et. al.). Schoolgirls who become pregnant have fewer opportunities to complete their education after childbirth and have fewer opportunities for socioeconomic advancement. Among policy makers and even the media, pregnancy is increasingly being mentioned as a reason for premature school leaving in the region. Anyone who has lived or travelled in Africa and read the local papers is familiar with the attention given to “schoolgirl pregnancy”- a term which draws attention to the risks schoolgirls face when they stay in school beyond the age of sexual maturity (Lloyd & Mensch, 2005). In most of the countries, schoolgirls whose pregnancies are detected are required to drop out of school, at least temporarily.

In most cases, schoolgirls who become pregnant in countries like Nigeria, Mali and even Zambia either had to resort to unsafe abortions or they face official school expulsion. Because girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy usually never returned to school to complete their education after childbirth, their opportunities for socioeconomic advancement are limited. While in many settings, rules are currently being liberalized to provide for possibility of re-entry, the number of those returning back to school is still very low. And due to the fact that a pregnant schoolgirl has to choose between dropping out of school and undergoing an abortion in order to remain in school, it poses a high cost associated with becoming pregnant while still in school. On the other hand, boys who get the girls pregnant do not face the same risks.

Many African governments have also included family life education programs in their school curriculum in an attempt to educate adolescents about the consequences and responsibilities associated with sexual activity. The high rates of schoolgirl pregnancies suggest that these family life programs have their shortcomings and indicate that educational policies should be used not only to reduce the incidence of schoolgirl pregnancies but also to assist pregnant schoolgirls to complete their education.

Gyepi-Garbrah (1985a:22-23) writes: “The plight of pregnant schoolgirls in Africa is particularly wrenching. They must either terminate their pregnancy by taking recourse in abortion in order to continue their education, or drop out of school either on their own volition or on pain of threatened official expulsion….. When girls drop out of school because of pregnancy, their future socio-economic prospects are significantly reduced.”

Other than the health problems associated with teenage pregnancy, it can also affect the girl’s future by delaying or terminating education, decreasing the chance of education beyond high school and increasing the chances of a poor marriage, unemployment or a low paying job. It is also noted that rather than pregnancy causing girls to drop out of school, other factors such as the lack of social and economic opportunities for girls and women in general as well as the domestic demands placed on them, coupled with the gender inequities of the education system, may result in unsatisfactory school experiences, poor academic performance and an acquiescence in or endorsement for early motherhood.

In Kenya, the youth population with young people between ages 15 – 19 is large, accounting for 25% of the population of the country. As in other parts of Africa and the rest of the world, these young people are faced with tremendous challenges in the transition to adulthood. The challenges are serious such that many young people especially young girls are leaving school early due to pregnancy. 23% of young women aged between 15 – 19 years are pregnant with their first child and 50% of young people have begun child bearing by age 20 years (CSA Kenya, 2007). It is important to note that most of the Kenyan young girls in this age bracket are still pursuing education in secondary schools and the pregnancies at this very age definitely interfere with their education efforts at that level. The introduction of free primary school education by the Kenya government has also led to increased numbers of school enrolment including those already in the sexually active age groups. A growth in the percentage of girls attending school after puberty inevitably leads to a rise in the risk of pregnancy among students being that they are already sexually active.

Given the fluidity of the traditional African marriage process, the onset of sexual relations and childbearing prior to formalizing a union was not unknown in Kenya in the past (Meekers 1992). The rapid expansion in education has led, however, to an increasing association in the public mind between premarital sexual activity, childbearing and schoolgirl dropout.

Kenya’s education policy also fully embraces the “Education for all” notion irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic and social background, economic status and color. The Ministry of Education endeavors to eliminate gender disparities and promote social equity through provision of basic education to all, including females (MOE 1998:55).

One of the Ministry’s strategies to meet educational objectives is to increase the course completion rate through reduction of dropout rates. The Ministry is fully aware that the dropout rate for girls is higher than that of boys and also that pregnancy and subsequent drop out of the girls from school contributes to the very disparities the educational policy seeks to eliminate. The statistics on school drop out of the teenage mothers in Kenya reveal that the problem has been demanding urgent solution.

1.1 Problem Statement:

Teenage pregnancy has a direct implication on school dropout among girls and a subsequent contributor to the disparities experienced in the education of both girls and boys. A number of studies concur that many young women drop out of school as a result of pregnancy (Gyepi-Grabrah, 1985a). In Kenya, a study conducted in 1985 estimated that about 10% of female students drop out of secondary schools because they were pregnant (Division of Family Health/GTZ Support Unit, 1988; Barker and Rich, 1990). In 1986, 11,000 Kenyan girls dropped out of school because of pregnancy (Kiragu, 1988)

However, whereas there have been issues raised with regard to teenage pregnancy and its subsequent influence on school dropouts, the literature available is really not about schoolgirl pregnancy at all, but instead on the relationship between school exit and subsequent childbearing. This is the case because there is no data on the number of girls who get pregnant while in school but only data on those who leave school because they are about to give birth (Cynthia B. Lloyd & Barbara S. Mensch, 2006). The widespread perception is also that girls who become pregnant and drops out may have to accept a low-paid job, enter a premature marriage, or become the head of an impoverished household, relying on meager assistance from her family and the child’s father.

This study seeks to establish the extent to which teenage pregnancy contributes to school dropout among girls in Embu municipality.

1.2 Objectives of the Study:

i. To determine the extent to which teenage pregnancy contributes to schoolgirl dropout in Embu Municipality
ii. To investigate factors predisposing high school girls to teenage pregnancies
iii. To investigate the levels of re-admission of girls who discontinue school due to pregnancy
1.3 Research Questions
i. What are the levels of school drop outs in Embu municipality due to teenage pregnancy?
ii. What are the factors predisposing girls to teenage pregnancy?
iii. To what extent do the girls get re-admitted after pregnancy?

1.4 Hypothesis

Teenage pregnancy significantly contributes to schoolgirl dropout among high school girls in Embu municipality

1.5 Scope of the Study:

This study was carried out in Embu municipality targeting girls from selected girls-only and mixed schools. A total of 10 high schools within Embu municipality in Central division of Embu district targeting 300 schoolgirls were targeted. Head teachers and guidance and counseling teachers from these schools were also covered in the study.

1.6 Justification of the Study:

Early sexual debut and premarital sex are increasingly common features of female adolescence in Kenya – putting girls at the risk of unwanted pregnancy and even infections such as sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Little discussion has also addressed the reasons young girls give for leaving school prematurely. Except in qualitative studies, the simultaneous decisions related to pregnancy and leaving school are rarely examined. In particular, if a girl gives a reason other than pregnancy for discontinuing her education, whether she is also pregnant at the time she leaves school is rarely taken into account. Particularly for those who give such dominant concerns as financial issues, family obligations, or lack of interest in school, a pregnancy may serve as an unacknowledged catalyzing force for timing of school dropout.

Girls’ dropping out of school due to pregnancy is a prevalent issue as reported in most schools in Kenya and this makes the issue of pregnancy as a reason for school dropout a subject worth investigating. Pregnancy as a factor in some of the dropouts may be downplayed, likewise the girls who mention pregnancy as their reason for leaving school may be influenced by their family’s financial situation or by potential care giving arrangements that will be available after the child is born. These factors may be significant in determining how a schoolgirl reacts to pregnancy and whether she will resume her education after her child is born.

Other reports also show that an estimated 13,000 girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy. This is equivalent to closing down 43 secondary schools with an estimated student population of 300 annually (CSA Kenya, 2007). With all the uncertainties pointed out here, it is evident that the issue of teenage pregnancy as a reason for school dropout among school girls is an area worth investigating; singling out the influence that teenage pregnancy has on schoolgirl dropout and the extent to which it is felt. Seemingly, most of the studies and reference materials available in this area are dating back to the 90s and this thus leaves a gap and room for further investigation as to what the situation could be in the current times.

1.7 Significance of the Study:

As already seen above on the justification, the outcome of this very important study has provided a more precise understanding of how teenage pregnancy influences school dropout and how that affects the education of the girl child in this particular region, the causes of teenage pregnancy as well as the possible remedies that can be employed to control the problem.

Those most likely to benefit from the findings of this study are the Ministry of Education and the school management authorities, especially in the formulation and strengthening of policies that guard teenage pregnancies in schools and the possible re-admission of the affected girls back to school. The civil society is another potential beneficiary of the outcome of this study in their course of championing for the rights of the girl child in attaining education, while working towards narrowing down the gender disparities in the education system.

This study has also helped create an environment of clear understanding of teenage pregnancies in schools, singling it out for clarity as one of the major causes as opposed to the many reasons that may cause school dropout. It has also given more weight on what has been ignored over time and in the process is expected to catch the attention of those concerned.

1.8 Limitations of the Study:

The limitations this study encountered were to do with the degree of willingness that the ministry and school management officials were having in divulging the information on pregnancies within their institutions. Visiting all the schools within the district was also not feasible and therefore the findings are dependent on the information given by the Ministry of Education representatives, school head teachers and the data that was be collected from a few of the schools selected and assumed to represent the entire district, which in itself may not be conclusive or even precise.

1.9 Assumptions of the Study:

– Secondary school going girls are at great risk of dropping out of school due to pregnancy
– Girls who withdraw from school due to pregnancy would have otherwise continued in school had they not become pregnant


2.0 Introduction:

Recent studies have investigated the degree to which pregnancy related school dropout is a major cause of gender differences in educational attainment (Eloundou-Enyegue and Strokes 2004). The goal of this study is to determine whether reduction in unintended teen pregnancy is a useful policy lever to improve school attendance by girls ensuring gender equity in school participation.

Plausible arguments suggest that programs to avoid unintended pregnancies among teens can have spillover benefits in promoting gender equity in education in many countries. One of the simplest arguments invokes girls’ unique vulnerability to pregnancy-related school dropouts. Since many girls and few (if any) boys drop out of school because of pregnancies, policymakers could reduce existing gender gaps by addressing pregnancy-related dropouts (Hyde 1995; Odaga and Heneveld 1995; Okojie 2001).

2.1 Causes of Teenage Pregnancies:

The various causes of teenage pregnancies in Kenya are as listed below;

– Peer pressure
– Drug and substance abuse leading to compromised decisions
– Irresponsible sexual behavior that frequently occurs in youth who do not have basic information about sex and contraception.
– Traditional values, gender roles and strict social taboos that once regulated sexual behavior among unmarried youth have broken down.
– Early marriage and child bearing among adolescent females.
– Problems in parent-child relationship, which may encourage the adolescent to seek comfort, acceptance and consolation through sexual activity.
– Poverty and material deprivation that may push young people into survival sex in exchange for money and food.
– Exposure to suggestive or explicit media, films, magazines, music that may influence adolescent sexual behavior, causing them to engage in sexual activity before they are ready.
– Failure to comply with religious principles and commandments, as prescribed by religious ethics, may lead to sexual permissiveness.
– Early pregnancy may be seen as a normal occurrence, the outcome of adolescent fertility and an indication of one’s manhood.

Mensch et. al (2001), also found out that girls who attended schools where girls felt they received equal treatment with boys were less likely to have engaged in sex than those who attended schools where fewer girls reported equal treatment. It thus appears that school environment is also a factor affecting the likelihood that a girl will be at risk of pregnancy.

The great majority of sexually active girls do not want to become pregnant. Teenage pregnancy can usually be attributed to abundance of sexual mythology that they have learned from their peers and lack of factual information that they have received from their parents. This causes them to believe that their sexual practices are safe and will not result in pregnancy

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