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Thousands of pregnant students to write NECO SSCE in FCT, northern states

When 15-year-old Suweba Haruna in Shetiko, along the popular Kuje prison road got pregnant, while preparing for her West African Examination Council (WAEC) papers, little did she know what was to be her plight.

Like the average teenage expectant mother, she was confused over what would be of her new status, especially with regards to her forthcoming examinations.

Locked up in this confusion, she had only two things to blame for her predicament: “the devil and ‘this’ Coronavirus lockdown thing.”

For Chidera Anthony and Joy Inuka, also in Shetiko area of Kuje-Paseli, it was mixed feeling of anger, frustration and regret as both were also only a few weeks into writing their 2020 West African School Certificate (WASCC) examination when they realised they were pregnant.

Like Suweba Haruna, for the duo, yet again, “it is the handiwork of devil and this ‘nonsense’ lockdown,” both teenagers chorused when asked how they got themselves into the pregnancy mess.

Interestingly, Suweba, even in her confused and worried state, never bargained for what fate had in stock for her. And like the popular adage encourages, even in every disappointment, comes a blessing in disguise.

The pregnancy she is carrying, and which has caused her so much anguish, truly was to come as her source of blessing in disguise, for today, she is alive to tell her story. Her story of being alive today, she owes to her young protruding tummy which her captors noticed before sending her back home.

That young Suweba was already pregnant was the only one reason she was rejected and released when the suspected marauding killer herdsmen who had earlier in the month invaded the Tunge Mage area of Niger State recently.

Determined to avoid the scorn and shame associated with her now visibly bulging stomach, at her young teenage; even under the hijab, she now flaunts regularly to disguise her pregnancy, she was forced to leave her friends in Shetiko after having managed to write some of her WAEC papers under the cover of her hijab, to disguise her fast ballooning tummy.

The teenage WASC student who didn’t know who is still confused over who is actually responsible for her pregnancy among the several boys she ‘interacted’ with had, in the bid to escape the preying eyes of her friends and colleagues in Kuje, sneaked to her aunt’s home in the Tunga Mage village of Niger State, neighbouring Abuja; only to be among those kidnapped by the maraudering gun men.

Though, she was among the first set of pregnant women to be released by the kidnappers even though the police also claimed to be responsible for the safe release of these five victims; today, she continues her cry of joy or is it sadness, as the case may be.

Her cause of tears of joy or sadness is because she doesn’t know whether to view her pregnancy with no known father as a curse, yet, this pregnancy saved her from her abductors and even now, the burden of her teenage pregnancy weighs heavily on her as she has to combine this state of discomfort with keeping vigils, if she must pass her WAEC and NECO examinations.

Many such stories of teenage pregnancies now abound in the nation’s capital and the northern part of the country, Saturday INDEPENDENT investigations have revealed.

From Kano to Kaduna, Gombe to Nasarawa, Bauchi to Zamfara, it is a sad story flowing from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and the government’s poor handling of its lockdown palliative measures.

Joy Abu, a 13-year-old diminutive student of Government Secondary School, Rubuchi, after Abaji, along the Abuja-Lokoja Expressway, also became pregnant during the lockdown of schools in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like others, she was waiting to write the West African Senior Certificate Examinations and the National Examination Council exams, when she realised she was pregnant.

For the family of Agnes, another SS3 female student in Nasarawa State, the blow of the loss of the job of the family’s breadwinner was still a difficult one to grapple with, when reality of the pregnancy of their 16-year-old daughter hit them like a thunderbolt.

This particular morning when Saturday INDEPENDENT visited the family, as the sunlight shone through the carvings on the wooden window into the dimly lite double room apartment occupied by Agnes, her parents and two other children, it was obvious, the family was in a total confusion.

Agnes’ father who, until March, worked in an eatery in Wuse 2, along Adetokunbo Ademola, Abuja, is now a jobless man.

He was lost in a deep thought when Saturday INDEPENDENT visited. While lamenting his ordeal, as tears streamed down his face, he bemoaned how he was now expected to feed his family and the additional mouth, being expected soon, courtesy of Agnes, “who we had strong hopes on, to finish school and take us out of this poverty, but has added more to our shame and poverty.”

The case of Zainab, 19, is another peculiar one. To survive the harsh conditions occasioned by the lockdown, Zainab, who has just concluded writing her West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Gombe is now four months pregnant and yet, preparing to sit for her NECO exams.

So, “Zainab will have to drop out of school to cater for child,” her mother told Saturday INDEPENDENT in Hausa language.

In the case of Magajiya Ibrahim, in Kaduna, hopes are high for her. Although, her relatives, fare no better economically, but they say, “we cannot watch the only daughter in the family suffer the humiliation of caring for the unwanted teenage pregnancy she has brought home.

“As things stand, we will still support her to write her WAEC and NECO and also contribute money for her to pay for school levy and other fees.

“It is the same way that we contributed money to enroll her for the West Africa Senior School Examination for 2020, even though she wasn’t pregnant at that time,” a senior family member further explained.

All was going well for Binta Malaifia, who had fled her Boguru village along with other settlers, during one of the several invasions of Boko Haram terrorists, until she was sexually assaulted in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Danboua of Borno State.

The 16-year-old is forced to cover her protruding tummy with a hijab, as she joined her mates in the exams hall, penultimate week, when she sat for her Mathematics WASC examination.

By the time she’s done with all her exams, including NECO, Malaifiya’s pregnancy would be anywhere around her second trimester.

Experts say the number of pregnant secondary school girls in the northeast, who are writing their final WAEC and NECO exams in 2020, is much more than what is obtainable in other parts of Nigeria.

Reason for this spike in teenage pregnancies is tied to the debilitating economies of low income families during the pandemic.

The situation was further aggravated by the decision of the government to lockdown the country with false promises of palliatives to cushion the effects.

In a local government area secondary school in New Nyanya, Nasarawa State, a Teacher, Dantuji Ahmed (not real name) says the case is rather “appalling.”

According to him, “We were shocked when some of them returned for their final year examinations, only for us to see them with protruding tummies.

“I for one was shocked beyond words. But what do I do. What do I say?” he concluded.

In Mararaba, Masaka and New Nyanya communities in Nasarawa State, the dire economic circumstance occasioned by the pandemic holiday and lockdown created tragic hunger for many.

While the lockdown lasted, was a common sight at nights, to see teenage, school-age girls litter the streets ostensibly in search of any form of ‘bailout’ (as they c all it) from men in exchange for sex.

Saturday INDEPENDENT spoke with 17 years old Rita Clement who stays in Ugwan Doka in New Nyanya.

She said she was a waitress at a local bar just before the pandemic. During the pandemic, she was also laid off from her job.

No sooner had she left the job than the pangs of the shutdown began to bite. When she couldn’t bear it anymore, she found succour at “One-Ten.”

“One-Ten”, is a popular bar and brothel in New Nyanya, where Rita and her new found, other out of secondary school lockdown friends like Mojisola, a Junior Secondary School 3 student of Aunty Loius Schools, Abuja, meet to scramble for a living.

Like others, they assemble at shanties around “1-10” where they get patronages ranging from N500 to N1500 for a round of sex. All these, in a bid to put food on the table.

Sara Bulus in Gombe State is the first among the seven children in her family. She’s pregnant for her boyfriend, 19-year-old Solomon.

Funnily, both wrote the WAEC in the same examination hall and are also both looking to write the upcoming NECO papers.

If the situation in Nasarawa is critical, that of Borno, Adamawa, and some other northeastern states were more alarming.

Saturday INDEPENDENT’s efforts to speak with the Hon. Minister of Education was unsuccessful as he was said to be outside the country for medical check-up.

Further efforts to speak with the Minister of Education for State didn’t yield results, as one of his aides told Saturday INDEPENDENT the junior Minister only two days back had an interview with a select team of media houses and thus referred this reporter to them.

Ibrahim Babagana, whose Safe Intervention, an NGO operates from Gwange 1 area of Borno State, says the Coronavirus outbreak wrecked more havoc than was expected.

“Already, we have a situation where many girls were out of schools in a society where the girl child is worse off.

“And then the Coronavirus pandemic has further created a tragic circumstance for us.

“Many girls, especially in Internally Displaced Camps were forced to remain sequestered in the camps.

With that came a lot of Gender Based Violence and sexual exploitation against girls.”

In Great Heights Schools in Jikwoyi, Miss Judith says “the concern for parents should be how to ensure that these girls return to finish their education even after writing WASSC and NECO.”

She says that “the harm has been done. There’s really nothing that can be done to reverse the situation, we can only try to salvage and remedy what’s left of the already bad situation.

“I still blame the government. Had adequate measures been taken to cushion the effects of the pandemic on families, these girls will not resort to using their bodies to fend for themselves.”

She narrates a pathetic case where a girl was sleeping around to get money to feed not only herself but her family also.

For the most part, most girls who got pregnant during the pandemic in the north central and northeastern states in Nigeria sought termination of the foetus.

Saturday INDEPENDENT available records show that those who sought quick termination of their unwanted pregnancies, did this out of fear of the unknown, shame, stigmatisation, poverty, peer pressure, homelessness and psychological hurt and despondency.

Culled from Saturday Independent

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