The Novel Coronavirus has brought unprecedented impacts on Malawi and world at large. For instance; we have seen it shaking the world’s best economies to a point of bankruptcy, we have seen it raping the world’s best health systems to a point of exhaustion, we have seen it partially and in extreme cases fully closing down churches to a point of sending chills down the spine about the great abomination day, and most importantly we have seen it punching education sector in the face to a point of forcing three quarters of Malawians resting at home.
We have now clocked five months since Malawi officially closed down its schools on March 20, 2020. This move though questionable has brought debilitating impacts on my 11-year-old sister and a 15-year-old boy in standard 6 and 8 respectively at Mlodza primary school in Lilongwe. She like other thousands of teenage girls across Malawi has been impregnated courtesy of COVID19 pandemic. I keep wondering what would this couple do with this untimely pregnancy!
I can confidently hypothesize that teen pregnancy has risen so high during this pandemic that it would demand a page in the Guinness book of records but poor surveillance across the districts has obscured the true picture. I guess we will appreciate the extent of this problem when schools open.
A lot of commentators have shoveled the blame to poor parenting making rather a frivolous argument about parents’ failure to watch over their sons and daughters like hawks, but the big question is how many parents would watch over their children on Coronavirus vacation for five months? None. Some have made a sound argument about unavailability of sexual and reproductive health services in our hospitals and other places but that would contribute to the impact in minute terms.
Malawi has experienced a dreadful rise in teen pregnancy with just a five-month school closure and It is now an open secret that education is undeniably the best contraception for school going boys and girls.
In United Kingdom, research established that reduction in teen pregnancy was associated with increasing education attainment as compared to long acting reversible contraception.
When boys and girls pursue education they are more likely to appreciate the downside of becoming pregnant but in situation where students are denied the inborn right to education, pregnancy becomes inevitable.
MOTO-Malawi strongly believes that opening schools in September will not only help to mop up ignorance but also bring back the most effective contraception to them.
Only by opening schools will we reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy substantively hence avoiding direful complications that befall a teenage girl whilst pregnant. Since pregnancy is mutual, many of my teen-brothers have been yoked with an oversized responsibility. Early fatherhood and motherhood are equally disturbing to both boys and girls respectively and need not to be overlooked at all cost.
Since Hospitals are not easily accessible during this pandemic, MOTO-Malawi recommends that organizations like PSI Malawi, Banja La Mtsogolo and even the Ministry of Health strategically introduce free condom access points for instance in designated shops so as to increase accessibility to these sexual and reproductive services to the idle boys and girls.
MOTO-Malawi would like to urge every boy and girl, young man and woman to continue nursing their ambitions and aspiration and stay steadfast as we wait for schools to open. Let us all Man-Up against COVID19 by washing hands with soap, putting on face mask, social distancing.