Teenage pregnancies and marriages on the rise in Malawi due to Covid-19 pandemic

Written by Paul India C

One day, while attending our philosophical class, our lecture mentioned a philosopher who had a different thought from the thoughts of the others but he did not want to implement it as all was milk and honey in the world of philosophy. One day came a question about the connection between the body and the mind, and this philosopher called Descartes woke up from his slumber and started the quest to find how this problem could be solved. Well, am not here to lecture on that topic of philosophy. Slumber seems to be a light sleep that can either end up into a deep sleep or if you chose to wake up may end up into another light rest.

philosopher called Descartes

 Few weeks ago, we woke up to the most disturbing revelations about 7000+ girls aged between 14-18 who became pregnant in Mangochi over a short period of time. The social media was awash with reactions. The cause has been highlighted in a syllogism that its conclusion has been Covid-19 which has led to the closure of schools and due to idleness the youth have been involved in sexual relationships and other immoral behaviors and one of the results has been the increase in number of pregnancies. Am not here just to comment but to try to explain what might be the reason of this worrying figure that put the threat of women empowerment and even a bright future at stake. In trying to explain this, am going to take a developmental psychology stance that maybe fused with anthropology and sociology as to give us roots and solutions to this parasite that is infecting the youth.

Erik H. Erikson a psychoanalyst at Harvard explains the Eight Ages of Man which caught my mind and I hereby try to link it to this problem and at the same time make propositions as to what can be done to save the society as this trend seems to be a time bomb for Malawi. My interest is the first five stages simply because thus where most of the youth are in and are fundamental in human person’s upbringing.

Erikson states the following ages; age of trust vs mistrust, age of autonomy vs doubt, age of initiative vs guilt, age of industry vs inferiority, age of identity vs role confusion, age of intimacy vs isolation, age of generativity vs self-absorption and lastly the age of integrity vs despair.

The best gift that one has to get from the society is to realize the self and at the same time be better to the society. This involves a well curved way of life that the society ignites it before one reaches a stage where he or she can make independent decisions. The failure to impart this skill leads to poor decision making that may affect the individual’s potential and at the same time put the society into a pit of confusion.

The first age of trust and mistrust relies mainly on the care given to a baby. This builds trust in the baby and those around him or her. The age of autonomy deals with how a baby understands freedom letting the baby do everything anyhow without an elder’s interference renders the child into lack of control over her or his body. This is where most of the problems we are seeing are coming from. Being in an era of freedom coupled with busy schedules of parents, young people have extraordinarily little skills of controlling themselves as many of them get and do whatever they want from and in presence of their parents. Self-control is essential and it is something that parents should develop much. Freedom does not reside only in doing but also in not doing because doing or having everything we want brings us into slavery to that particular object or activity.

The age of initiative and guilt is a result of the previous stage. It is a manifest of control over the child’s body. When control is known to the child from the autonomy stage, he or she can initiate motor activities on his own and thus their response to their needs or wants is not a mere sensual satisfaction. This stage requires freedom a bit and at the same time a parent or a guardian who can respond to the questions asked by the child which mostly sharpen the intellectual side.

Then comes the age of industry vs inferiority which is between 6 to 11 years and mainly it is primary school stage. This is what is also called the family romance stage where one is attracted to the parent of opposite sex taking the same sex parent as a rival. Their concern is how things are made and how they work and what their function is.

The most crucial age is between 12-18 which according to the numbers of the impregnated girls thus where most of them belong. Now one can say the problem is that the closure of schools has brought this but am sure we have all, after following Erikson, known where the problem is. As I scrolled on this, I concluded that the problem lies in failure to implement self-control and this has been like that because of the unlimited autonomy that most of the young people have been given. One could say look this man is against our freedom… oh that hurts… am not against freedom but am against having freedom without the skill of choice and self-control.

Erikson describes an adolescent as someone who thinks dreams are real and there is no limit to the ideals which they possess. The society is passing through that system of life that requires a skill of choice and self-control more than ever. The youth listen, watch read, hear, and see a lot of things that always are for freedom and sensual pleasures. These things are all over their lives and if these two important skills are not implemented then the results will be devastating always. Do not think all the 7000+ girls didnt know they could be pregnant, do not think they wanted to be pregnant, and do not think they didnt value their future; but the problem was choices and self-control.

As parents we have to set up our homes in a way that should balance our parenthood and our work or businesses when a child understands the freedom notion and the skill of choice which starts as early as the age of 2 to 3 years then we have laid a foundation which grooms a child who understands himself or herself and at the same time find no problems with authority. Most of the parents nowadays are in the working class and mostly the upbringing is done by a maid or else one parent. If the parent does not check the freedom given to the child there is a danger that the child maybe vulnerable in a face of dilemma.

If we look at most of the problems and lifestyles webbing the youth nowadays, we see that choice and self-control are in small portions. Schools as second stages of socialization too tend to offer little in terms of human development. Many schools focus on performance rather than personal development. We have to do much on this as we know that despite parents doing their best to raise a child, it is a continued process which school has to carry on. Peer pressure is real and has taken two to three individuals this is why schools should always be strict with discipline. It is a shame to know that most of the girls falling pregnant are in the senior section of secondary education which is a stage where one should manifest self-awareness and even maturity as the last phase of education trains one to be a professional taking it for granted that his family and primary and secondary school sessions have helped him or her to be a better citizen.

We should wake up from the slumber or else Malawi will one day wake up to an explosion of a time bomb that will bring a confused society. As technology and socialization has offered a mixture of choices only those with skills and self-control will survive.

The call for NGOs too is to look into imparting these skills to mostly girls as they are the worst hit victims. Most of the NGOs take into consideration only the economic part of the girl child and there is no follow up in their human development this cannot bring a success to their objectives they need to up their game and be in contact with their beneficiaries as often as possible otherwise all their activities will not be successful. This is just one of the battles Malawi is to fight if victory of the war of poverty is to be realized.

In as far as we want to take the covid-19 as a problem and the closure of schools as the cause of an increase in early pregnancies we should know that this is just a problem that has put to the test our society status. So, it is a wakeup call for us to wake up from the slumber and build a better society together.

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