Giving teen mothers a second chance at education

UNICEF helps to bring more girls back to school

Joy Wanja Muraya
Margaret Akoru
16 May 2022

Margaret Akoru, the headteacher at Nalemsekon primary school in Lodwar, knows first-hand what teenage pregnancy means for a schoolgirl.

One of her own daughters became pregnant aged just 14. But instead of giving up on the girl, Akoru helped her daughter raise the baby and advised her to return to school as soon as possible.

“I gave my daughter a second chance by allowing her time to nurse her baby before resuming school,” says Akoru.

“Teen mothers have extremely difficult time need lots of love and direction to enable them to pick up where they left off.”

As the principal of a school, where dropout rates were high even before COVID-19, Akoru believes it is important to focus on empowering girls and prepare them for the challenges they’ll face in the community.

“We have conversations that touch on both academics and life skills, and we lay much emphasis to let the girls know that education is the gateway to a successful future.”

Joy Wanja with a student

Almost 1.13 million children of primary school age (6 to 13 years old) are out of school in Kenya, according to an Out-of-School Children Initiative study conducted in Kenya in 2021. The situation has worsened due to the impact of COVID-19 related school closures, followed by drought in many of the focus counties.

In partnership with Educate a Child, UNICEF is supporting the Kenyan government to bring more girls back to school, through the Out of School Children programme.

A baseline survey was recently conducted in 16 counties finding pregnancy is one of the key reasons of girls dropping out. Other reasons include household chores, early marriage, peer pressure and cultural norms that keep girls at home.

UNICEF Kenya education specialist Constance Kouakou says educating girls is an investment in a nation’s future.

“UNICEF is keen to ensure that every girl is in school, including those who have dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancies, child marriage and domestic labour.”

“Every girl needs a second chance and committed mentors like Akiru who have gone that extra mile to ensure that they realise their dreams.”

She said the Out of School programme kept parents informed about the importance of education and a protective home environment, providing children the support they need to reach their full potential.

Headteacher Margaret Akoru
Margaret Akoru, headteacher at Nalemsekon primary school, Lodwar.

By Joy Wanja Muraya