Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
Along the Bulawayo Beitbridge Highway is the Mawabeni area, a small hamlet located just after Essigodini from Bulawayo.
This place is widely known for its rich gold deposits. More recently, it has become home to many vulnerable and pregnant teenagers who have gradually dropped out of school in recent years.
This year alone, six schools surrounding the region recorded teenage pregnancies among learners aged 12 to 17.
But the most worrying trend is that the majority of these learners are the beneficiaries of scholarships from development partners, counting losses as a result of girls dropping out of school after becoming pregnant.
Of the 367 teenage pregnancies recorded in southern Matabeleland between January and June, most of them were reported in Ummjinwane district, with 61 reported cases, according to Ministry of Health and Childcare statistics. Beitbridge followed with 60 pregnancies.
Burilima recorded 58 pregnancies and Matobo 57. In Gwanda she conceived 51 teenagers and in Mangwe her 48 pregnancies were recorded. The lowest number of pregnancies was in her Insiza, where her 31 girls under the age of 16 gave birth.
In addition to high teenage girl pregnancy rates, Matabeleland South has the highest HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe, with an estimated 19.58% of people in the state being positive.
William Ngwenya, Mawabeni Ward District 3 councilor, said most of the pregnancies recorded in the school were missing because relatives chose not to report abusive parents or guardians.
He said most of the girls were conceived by their uncles and grandfathers, making it difficult for the community to intervene.
Cllr Ngwenya said in 2022 development partners lost millions of dollars in the form of school fees paid to pregnant, orphaned and vulnerable girls.
“Organizations that have enlisted to help our orphaned and vulnerable children have lost millions of dollars in expenses paid to them simply by realizing that they were pregnant within the year. Others were on Form 4 and were due to take final public exams, but all resources were wasted due to unwanted pregnancies.
“We recently met with stakeholders and discovered that organizations like CAMFED and Plan International have lost millions of dollars to pregnant girls. They are girls who are in a vulnerable position.”
The country has received US$30 million in first-phase support from the EU to help Zimbabwe achieve some of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3 and 5). It is about enabling women and girls to reach their full potential in a non-violent gender. – Responsive and inclusive environment. By the end of last year, she had recorded 31 learner pregnancies at Shinwakou Junior High School, a few meters from the main road. Some Form 4 learners were unable to take the official exam.
Other affected schools include Matshetshe, Esikhoveni Primary, Esikhoveni Secondary, Mzinyathi Primary and Mzinyathi Secondary School.
There are reports that about 30 girls between the ages of 13 and 16 become pregnant each year at Esikhoveni Secondary School.
A city council member said that three primary school students had become pregnant around the corner.
“Education is a step in the right direction, so it is sad to see children turn their backs on a brighter future. I mean,” he said.
“Some girls get pregnant after being pampered by their grandfathers and uncles. There are boys who go to school who have impregnated their classmates, making these cases difficult to handle, but the bottom line is that girls are doomed.” That’s it.”
Ngwenya called for strong measures to address the rising teenage pregnancy rate.
“I think we need to be careful, and even think that these girls should be examined and monitored monthly so that resources are not wasted on pregnant children. The police must be deployed to help eradicate the rotten apples that impregnate girls and ruin their futures,” he said. .
For Sitrisiwe Dube, who deals with child abuse cases in her community, her parents’ failure to raise good citizens has led to an increase in pregnancies.
“There are many people on forms 1 to 3 who are getting pregnant at an alarming rate, but sadly the community is helpless and doesn’t even know what to do. I can no longer take reprimands or advice,” she said.
“Even businessmen no longer hesitate to sell beer to underage children, so our business center is a busy place where everything happens. and that is how they fall prey.
Duvet said some boys make bread part-time on weekends to earn pocket money and spend it on girls.
“There are boys in our community who impregnate two girls at once. Indeed, our children have no future,” she said.
Dube said the community had tried everything without success and the government needed to come up with a strategy to deal with the situation.
“We long for projects made for these girls who get pregnant because many of them are unable to get themselves back. , they need recreation centers and self-help projects to help them get back on their feet,” she said.
Kurekani Moyo said the Mawabeni community could soon become a home for single mothers if nothing was urgently done to deal with the scourge.
“We are terrified of what will happen to these children. And because it is the Christmas season, we know that when schools are closed, pregnancies will skyrocket again.” And I hope they also address the problem of outsiders who impregnate children,” she said.
“These people should be prosecuted because they too are to blame. It is sad to see our children going through all these problems without getting help.” .”
National AIDS Council (NAC) Coordinator John Gwenya said teenage pregnancies are upending the district’s gains in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
He said programs funded by the government and donors are being implemented to help girls attend school, but more efforts are needed to curb the scourge.
“Yes, HIV prevalence is high, but I am concerned about the number of girls who are pregnant and continue to drop out of school. This is a step forward because HIV cannot be eradicated if there are still people who indulge in unsafe sex. It means taking five steps forward and five steps back,” Ngwenya said.
“It is not young women who get pregnant, but girls who cannot consent to sex by law.”
Innocent Katsande, Communications Specialist at UN Women, said it was important to empower communities to find their own solutions.
“We don’t have to let women fight alone. There shouldn’t be any room in our social discourse for women to be taken advantage of, especially based on their economic status,” he said.
About 220 Zimbabwean minors were raped from January to September 2022, out of a total of 435 rape cases reported in the country, according to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Communities and SME Development. I was.
A total of 959 cases of sexual violence were reported during the same period.
Recently, a 9-year-old Tsholotsho girl was raped and became pregnant. She had her girl assisted in her delivery at her Bulawayo United Hospital. –@thamamoe