By Maurine Munyendo
For the past two years, Teresa Muhanja has developed a morning routine which she follows without fail. Every weekday, Teresa wakes up, makes porridge, breastfeeds and baths her two year old child before taking a shower, leaving the child under her mother`s care and heading to school. She arrives at school at around 8.00 a.m sometimes making if for the first lesson and other times when it is about to end.
The form four student is one of the 15 teen mothers that are enrolled in Trinity Kibra Education Secondary school in 42 area in Kibera. The school that has a total of 70 students is offering teen girls a second chance to continue with their education.
In 2016, when Johnson Masese started the school, it was a way of ensuring that children from poor families had access to education. “I wanted to bridge the gap making it possible for poor and vulnerable learners within the informal settlement to enjoy learning like the rest of the children in other areas,” he says. Among the vulnerable learners that the school would benefit were teen mothers who mostly ended up dropping out of school due to stigma.
Many teenage girls often face rejection from families when they get pregnant. The rejection from families may prompt the girls to run away from home, end up in early marriages or commit suicide.
Mitchell Otieno knows too well the pain of being rejected by her family. The form three student and teen mother says that her father shunned her after finding out she was pregnant.
“My father considered me as a bad influence to my siblings. He hated me so much which prompted me to go and stay with my neighbour who introduced to me to Trinity school. The 16 year old, says that even though balancing between motherhood and education is difficult, she is determined to keep going and achieve her dream of being a doctor.
“I thank the school administration for allowing me enroll because I don’t know what could have happened to me,” she says.
Masese who doubles up as the school founder and principal says that there was a surge in cases of teen pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “The long holidays coupled with little parental guidance led many students into early relationships resulting in pregnancies,” he says. Poverty, lack of parental support and insecurity in the community are among other factors contributing to high rates of pregnancy. He adds that due to high rates of poverty at home, girls engage in transactional sex with older men to get money.
The school is creating a safe space for teenage mothers by ensuring that they learn for free. Teen mothers also get diaper donations from the school. “We also pay for day care for their children and buy food for some of the students whose cases are dire,” says Masese.
Some of the girls live with their parents or guardians while others live by themselves especially those that have been orphaned. “We have to ensure that those that live alone are well catered for and are comfortable,” adds Masese.
Still, some of teenage mothers must navigate other hurdles to stay in school. “Due to the need to cover the syllabus students go back home later in the day after attending evening preps. As a teen mum I find this difficult. Many times I cannot afford to buy milk for my child and this leads to loss of weight for my baby boy,” says Damaris Amwayi, a 19-year-old teen mother.
The school sustains the teenage mother’s program through donations from the community. However, Masese admits that the school still needs more resources to help put up more classes, buy adequate books, computers and put up a laboratory. The school currently has 6 teachers and 3 classes forcing form ones to study in a hall. “I appeal to the government and well wishers to help me build the school which can help to enroll more girls and ensure they don’t succumb to early pregnancy due to pressures of life in slums. I believe that a good school environment leads to better results,” says Masese.
Damaris encourages other teen mothers that are not going to school to go back and continue their education. “You are still young and though you may be mocked don’t get discouraged go back to school and continue with your education,”she says.