As Kenya Keeps Schools Shut, Teen Pregnancies Are Rising The country's schools are closed until January as the coronavirus surges. Meanwhile, officials say there's an increase in underage expecting mothers.

As Kenya Keeps Schools Shut, Teen Pregnancies Are Rising

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Students in Kenya have been out of school since March, and now the government says 2020 will be a lost year. Not only will there be no in-person classes, there will also be no virtual school - nothing - until January. The decision has already had a devastating effect on children, particularly teenage girls. NPR's Eyder Peralta has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: As we walk through the big Kibera slum here in Nairobi, we literally dodge kids.

ZULEIKA DAFFALA: You see they are playing. Some are doing housework.

PERALTA: Zuleika Daffala is a community activist. She says parents are at work. So for the kids, this has been a long holiday.

DAFFALA: You know, in Kibera here, we are not rich. So for a parent to stay at home and look for the kids, in Kibera it doesn't happen like that.

PERALTA: Most people here live off a dollar or two a day. If they don't work, they don't eat. Daffala says she is getting daily calls from desperate parents. Kids had goals. Now the government is making them repeat a grade, and they are despondent. Parents call her about their girls.

DAFFALA: Most of them are pregnant. Life has changed completely.

PERALTA: Since the country locked down for the coronavirus, counties have reported thousands of teenage pregnancies.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORRUGATED METAL FLAPPING)

PERALTA: Seventeen-year-old Jackline Bosibori walks me into her house. It has a dirt floor, and the walls and roof are made of corrugated metal. Jackline was going to a boarding school. But like all students, she was sent home in March.

DAFFALA: I didn't have anything to do sometimes, so I decided just to be at my boyfriend's place.

PERALTA: After a few weeks of hanging out with her boyfriend, she found out she was pregnant. Her mom, Annah Nyamoko, stands right behind her, arms crossed. She has six other girls. Her husband left her because they didn't have a boy.

ANNAH NYAMOKO: (Speaking Swahili).

PERALTA: Annah makes about $15 a day sifting through trash to find recyclables. All of her effort has gone into Jackline. Because Jackline loves a good argument, the plan was for her to become a lawyer and help the family out of poverty. Now, her mom says, all those dreams are in limbo.

JACKLINE BOSIBORI: I'm feeling very bad, but I don't know what can I do now.

PERALTA: Jackline says she will go back to school. But huge questions hang over her. Will her mom be able to watch the baby and work to feed the family? Can she pay school fees?

What if you can't go back to school?

BOSIBORI: If I can't - aye, can that be possible? I know my life would be miserable from there.

PERALTA: She says her life would be miserable. Unfortunately, studies have found that only 1 in 10 girls like Jackline ever go back to school.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

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