Two months after it was revealed that Guyana recorded over 6000 adolescent pregnancies in just two years, residents of Westbury on the Essequibo Coast, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) have voiced their concerns over what they identified as increased incidences of teenage pregnancy in their community. Speaking to <<<INews>>> recently, the villagers said the relevant authorities should urgently look into these pregnancies.
According to information disclosed, two secondary school students in the village dropped out of school as a result of their pregnancies. This publication understands that one of the girls is reportedly living with her grandmother and the other is living with her mother, who is a single parent. Reports are a young man from a neighbouring village has been seen visiting the home of one of the girls on regularly occasions and is presumed to be the boyfriend and father to be.
It was claimed that both the boy and one of the girls are “closely related” to senior persons in the region’s administration and residents have said this close relation has caused many to turn a blind eye to the situation.
One of the concerned parents in Westbury, who declined to be identified, said because of the economic constraints in the area, some parents cannot afford to give their children the best education and children are left with little to help themselves after schooling. “Some who are not qualified for good jobs are the ones falling prey to this practice for survival and now the younger children are following the same trend,” a parent said.
Other residents pointed out that the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA) should immediately launch an investigation into the report, so as to prevent other youth in the area from falling prey to teenage pregnancy. Some are calling for more education to prevent vulnerable youth from falling into underage and or unsafe sexual practices so as to curb early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Westbury residents are also calling on the welfare department of the region to quickly intervene and discontinue the teen pregnancy trend.
Some residents alleged that some of the young girls are “forced” to have sexual relationships at an early age due to poverty. Over the past 11 years, the Government has been introducing, and at some points, reforming the national policy for the reintegration of adolescent mothers into the formal education system. After the last round of research and consultations, the Education Ministry received a policy framework document on reintegrating teen mothers in the public-school system.
Guyana was said to be ranked second on the list for the highest number of teenage mothers in the Caribbean and Latin America, with about 97 births for every 1000 teenage girls which puts the country in close range with The Dominican Republic which tops the list.
This Online had reported in June on some of the 15 factors that lead to teenage pregnancies as highlighted in research for the policy. It was revealed that school dropouts, lack of knowledge and difficult relationships with parents and family members, poverty, incest, exploitation and sexual abuse were the identified factors; some which concurred with the concerns of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) residents.
Education Minister Nicolette Henry who received the policy framework earlier this year noted that it was a way of modernising education in Guyana. In 2015, some 3712 girls were reported pregnant while in 2016, a total of 3032 were recorded. In both cases, the age range was between 15 to19 years.
The programme to reintegrate teenage mothers into the school system was launched on April 15, 2008. The programme was launched under the theme “Assisting to Achieve Quality Education through Reintegration” and had started in 2007 but was officially launched in 2008. The initiative is in keeping with the millennium development goals and targets youths.
In the case of the teenage pregnancy in Westbury, the ages of the teen mothers and young men who reportedly fathered their offspring were not revealed. According to the laws of Guyana, it is prohibited for an adult male to sexually penetrate a female under the age of 16, in addition to other sexual acts.
However, under the Sexual Offences Act, there is some consideration observed when the accused and complainant have less than four years age difference. However, the male cannot be related, hold a position of trust or must the complainant be dependent on the accused.
Meanwhile, if the child is under the age of 18 and an adult abuses a position of trust; they would face charges based on the gravity of the offence. Persons found guilty of committing rape are liable for life imprisonment.