Teenage pregnancies in Nigeria

October 9, 2015

Nigeria has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of teen pregnancies in recent years. In 2014, by percentage, there were twice as many unwed mothers aged 9 to 15 than there had been in 2004. There were almost 1,000,000 unplanned births last year over 0.5 per cent of the national total and estimated 300,000 of those were among adolescent girls.And to that statistic must be added countless more youngsters whose births were not registered and those who underwent abortions.According to a health researcher from Australia working in the country, Nigerian parents would dearly love to turn back the clock so they might better educate their daughters about sex and especially about avoiding pregnancy.Nigeria as a whole should be wishing it hadn’t ignored this problem for so long.Yet the common reaction is shock, anger and dismay mingled with denial, forgetfulness and apathy.No single segment of Nigerians society can or should be counted on to tackle this problem alone whether its the government, the schools, the parents and certainly not the teens themselves.However, it will be interesting to see whether the new government effort to slow the trend will succeed.There has been legislations being mulled that would compel state agencies to pool efforts in addressing the issue through improved sex education and by offering opportunities for pregnant teens to continue their schooling.

It would be the first time that all Nigerian government agencies act as one in this matter and, if the proposed legislation materialises and there will be a modicum of success,it will be the first time that any such campaign has slowed the teen pregnancy rate in country whose population exceeds 200 million. Should the legislation be adopted, Nigeria would not expect quick results. Improving the quality of sex education would alone take considerable time.Most important is that the family has its crucial role to play.It will be ideal if the Parents are well advised to replace restrictive and repressive instincts with understanding and realistic expectations. Youngsters learn about sex in all its forms at a much earlier age in the Internet era and are, of course, naturally curious. Premarital sex has become the norm around African and especially in Nigeria, so how can it remain a taboo subject in so many Nigerian households?So the parents and especially the mothers need to adopt a realistic attitude. Brutally honest discussion with children about sex is crucial. It’s a chance to instil in them the sense of responsibility so necessary to making smart choices. The most fundamental message should be that sex in not a sin, but unprotected sex could impose hindrances that last a lifetime. Empowering your children with this level of sex education doesn’t imply encouraging sex, but rather guaranteeing that there are no unforeseen and unwanted consequences.For teenagers, peer relationships can seem like a battlefield. Parents are uniquely equipped to arm them with the ability to survive.

In Nigeria, mothers’ hopes for their daughters typically involve marriage to a worthy man and a baby when the time is right, in full nuptial consent. Those hopes are all too often dashed early these days, however, as teenagers continue enjoying sex without contraception. Parents in general are in the dark about their offspring becoming sexually active, until pregnancy renders the awareness moot.Young Nigerians who find themselves in this situation will invariably regret having foregone the use of a condom, but, unfortunately for Nigerian society, the majority of teens still shun contraception in ignorance or foolhardiness and then must deal with the consequences.Scuttling the many efforts over the years to get Nigerian kids to practise safe sex is society’s restrictive, conservative and unrealistic outlook. One campaign aimed at encouraging young men to always carry a condom was widely condemned as encouraging premarital sex instead. Plans to install condom vending machines in schools yielded to the same prudish sentiment.Time has come where practical solutions are needed to address the alarming teenage pregnancies in country with spiralling population.

Contador Harrison