11 February 2021
The Serene Haven private school in central Kenya is giving teenage mothers and pregnant girls a second chance to finish their education.
Many of the girls, between the ages of 13 and 19, were forced out of their local schools.
In a normal year, about 13,000 pregnant girls are forced to stop going to school, government research shows. That is likely to increase this year.
Aid groups say COVID-19 restrictions closed schools and led to an increase in teenage pregnancies and sexual abuse.
Seventeen-year-old Emily said she was assaulted by a man who had promised to teach her while classes were closed. She asked not to be identified by her full name to protect her privacy.
Emily is now six months pregnant. She said her mother would not let her go back to school. "She was worried ... they would be mean to me or tease me," she added.
Then Emily met Elizabeth Wanjiru Muriuki. The former social worker started Serene Haven, which provides child care and counseling services to the girls. Serene Haven opened in January when other Kenyan schools reopened.
The young mothers walk through the library and other school buildings with their babies in their arms. There is an assistant available when needed, and the girls can take breaks to feed their children between lessons.
"We only have three babies who are over one year old. The rest of the babies and the rest of the pregnancies all happened during the COVID time," said Muriuki.
Nineteen-year-old mother Josephine Wanjiru has been out of school for two years. Being at Serene Haven means she might reach her goal of becoming a nurse.
"I was very excited because I did not expect something like this," said Wanjiru.
Muriuki was a teenage mother herself and went on to finish school and build a career.
"There are some girls who come here and are really downcast, they feel like this is the end of the world," said Muriuki.
"I start with giving them my story ... they are really encouraged – like ‘Ah, if you can do it, we can also do it.'"
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Ayenat Mersie reported on this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
assault – v. to violently attack someone or something
tease – v. to laugh at and criticize someone in a way that is either friendly and playful or cruel and unkind
counsel – v. to give advice to someone
library – n. a place where books, magazines, and other materials such as videos and musical recordings are available for people to use or borrow
encourage – v. to make someone more determined, hopeful, or confident
downcast - adj. not happy, confident, or hopeful