About 32 adolescent girls at Akyem Sekyere, a village close to Anyinam on the Accra Kumasi Highway in the Eastern Region, dropped out of basic school in 2017 due to teenage pregnancy.
Young girls between the ages of 10 and 16 years actively engage in sexual relationships with their peers and older men at Akyem Sekyere, catchment areas like Abekoase, Subriso, Ahenkrasu and parts of Monsie.
Statistics available to Citi News indicate that, between January and December 2016 alone, as many as 26 adolescent girls in basic schools at Akyem Sekyere dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy.
That number increased to 32, between the same period in 2017.
This was revealed in an interview with Citi News by Afua Serwaa Bonsu, a Senior Physician Assistant at the St. Monica’s Health Centre in Akyem Sekyere.
“The rate at which teenage and adolescent girls are getting pregnant is very alarming and it is going out of hand here in the Atewa District. It is becoming normal to the people here and some kind of fashion which I do not understand, girls as young as 11 years are getting pregnant here and this is mind-boggling,”she said.
“They visit our facility with a headache, fever, weakness and dizziness, but after careful observations, checking of vital signs and running of tests, we get to know they are pregnant sometimes 3 months that they themselves are not even aware of.”
This problem has taken a huge toll on education and the performance of students, especially young girls in the District.
District Education Director blames situation on illegal miners
The Atewa District Education Director, Isaac Kojo Okyere, in a Citi News interview, attributed the high number of teenage pregnancies to the presence of illegal miners in the Atewa District who he said, entice the young ladies with money.
“I blame the high number of illegal miners who invaded the district to mine in the Atewa forest and other lands in the district. During the peak of the galamsey period, they came here in their numbers to destroy the environment and in causing destruction to the farmlands and water bodies, they also ended up luring the young girls and enticing them with money to have sex with them, and this has largely contributed to the high number of girls who drop out in the basic schools here,” he lamented.
Kojo Okyere, however believes government’s ban on small-scale mining and the ongoing campaign against galamsey will help reverse the trend.
“We at the Education Service are very worried about these developments in the sense that how can you have 32 adolescent girls dropping out of school because they are pregnant? What then happens to their education as future leaders of this country? So personally I’m very excited about government’s decision to end illegal mining in the country, and I hope the situation will improve as the miners have left the areas.”
This position is re-echoed by Efua Serwaa Bonsu, the Physician Assistant. She revealed how some parents push their own teenage daughters to these illegal miners for money.
“In some of our engagements with these pregnant teenage girls, they tell us that some of the parents forcibly send them out to go and get money from the illegal miners. The Akyem land is rich with a lot of mineral resources such as gold, and a lot of people came to the district to mine. The Atewa District was one of the worst hit with the activities of illegal miners during the heat of the galamsey period and these miners had money to spend lavishly on them”.
Fathers impregnating their daughters
Diana Twumasi, the Founder of Sister’s Diary, a Non-Governmental Organization which empowers girls, revealed to Citi News how some fathers also engage in sexual intercourse with their own daughters.
“I engage the young girls occasionally, and they tell me things they do not tell their parents and also share deep thoughts and secrets with me. After a recent interaction with a group of them, one came up to me to tell me a problem which she said was eating her up and it was about how her own father who was constantly actively engaging her in sexual intercourse. Afraid and worried as she is, she is not able to tell her mother about the affair with her father because she is aware several colleagues of hers also have the same problem with their fathers at home and this is really affecting them academically and psychologically”.
Parents are also to blame
Some parents Citi News interacted with at Akyem Sekyere, were not surprised at the turn out of events blaming themselves for the increasing spate of teenage pregnancy in the community.
“It is true, teenage pregnancy is very common in this town, so if you have been informed about it then it is the truth. Some young girls do not even complete school, but give birth in SHS 1, break from school and give birth again, and continue school so before they complete SHS they have given birth to 2 kids”.
“Some of the fault also come from us the parents, the money we give to kids to school is not much, we have to give them enough money that will not push them to engage in sexual activities but some of the children too are also very bad regardless of the amount of money you give them, they still engage in sexual activities because as they leave home to school we do not follow them and they end up in rooms of guys without our knowledge”, a parent lamented.
Eno Kwakyewaa, a parent who’s young daughter is pregnant for the second time, in an interview with Citi News blamed the lack of support from some fathers in the community for the sad state of affairs.
“Our husbands are also part of the problem, they do not assist us financially in taking care of our daughters. If your daughter is sacked from school and your husband supports you the child will go back to school and not end up in a man’s room to look for assistance”.
Eno Kwakyewaa said not all parents push their children to illegal miners for money.
“It is never true that we all push our girls to men, my daughter has given birth and I asked her to go back to register because there is free SHS now, but to my surprise she is pregnant again. I am really sad and in pain. I attended PTA at her school at Anyinam Presby and asked her to come home with me but she refused. Later when she came, I realized she was pregnant again so now what do I do, I can’t sack her from home neither can I abort the pregnancy for her so, I will allow her to deliver and after that, if she wants to continue her education I will let her do so. I wasn’t successful growing up in life so why should I push my kid into a behaviour which did not help me”.
Gloria Akplaku, the Girls Education officer for the Atewa District in an interview with Citi News, also called for urgent attention and a vigorous community participation to end the trend.
Teenage girls could get infected with HIV/AIDS
With the high teenage pregnancy cases recorded in the Atewa District, the Ghana AIDS Commission is alarmed.
Madame Golda Asante, the Technical Coordinator of the Ghana AIDS Commission in the Eastern Region believes residents in the Atewa District are at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“If 30 young girls are getting pregnant and dropping out of school then this is very serious. It is serious in the sense that if they got pregnant, it is because they had unprotected sex which may not be with single partners but several others and this makes them and the whole community vulnerable to contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases including HIV”.
She however indicated that the Ghana Aids Commission will intensify its already existing community education and outreach programs in the district to deal with the challenges.
“We have already established AIDS clubs in the district and we also have district focal persons there. What the Commission is going to do is to prioritize our activities in the district, we will concentrate more in the district and let our presence be felt in the entire communities around. We are going to engage the members in series of community education programs to help prick their knowledge on this important sensitive health issue and I believe this will go a long way to help sanitize the entire community”.
By: Neil Nii Amatey Kanarku/citifmonline.com/Ghana