By Henriqueta Paulo, Advocacy Coordinator, Communication and Government Relations - Tete, Mozambique, World Vision
14-year-old Telma* lives with her mother and stepfather in Kazuzu, Nampula province, in northern Mozambique. Four months ago, she became pregnant from an 18-year-old boy in the community.
Her dream of becoming a nurse is now uncertain - she isn’t sure she can go back to school as a teenage mother, even once schools reopen after the threat of COVID-19 passes. “I really don’t know what will happen with me in near future. Everything seems a blur now. I don’t even know how I will raise the child,” Telma says, wiping her eyes. She regrets what she did, but she realizes it is too late.
Before the pandemic hit, Telma was in 4th grade. When the schools were closed, and her family started to struggle from the financial impacts of the lockdown, Telma decided to help make ends meet. “During this period that we don't go to school I used to sell fried cakes by the road in order to help increase my family’s income,” she murmured.
However, her struggle to help her family led Telma into trouble. Her grandmother’s neighbor offered to help, and she would meet this young man whenever she visited her grandmother in the same settlement. “I met a boy who gave me 300.00 MZM [US$4.00] when I was spending some time at my grandma’s.”
Pregnant at 14
However, Telma is now pregnant and her boyfriend is nowhere to be found. Her parents are very upset with her situation. “When I found out that I was not feeling well I informed my boyfriend, and he asked me to induce a miscarriage, but when I was afraid and refused, he suddenly disappeared from the community for the city,” said Telma.
Her mother was not aware of her daughter’s pregnancy until Telma finally worked up the courage to tell her. “I did not know that my daughter is pregnant. I wish she could continue going to school as we parents never had that opportunity to go,” said Sandra, Telma’s mother.
The Mozambican Ministry of Education recently revoked its hardline 2003 guidance which ordered all pregnant schoolgirls to attend night classes and banned them from day classes. However, even though Telma can now technically still go to school when they reopen, it would be difficult for her due to her parents’ financial struggles, which will only become worse after she delivers her baby.
I don’t even know how I will raise the child, - Telma says, wiping her eyes.
Instead of going back to school, Telma will probably have to go back to work in order to feed her child. She desperately wants to provide a bright future for her baby.
There are many girls in Nampula who are in the same situation. Since March, World Vision has registered 35 pregnant teenagers, ranging in age between 12 and 17 years old in Kazuzo.
World Vision has been working with local authorities and other partners in Mozambique to discourage sexual abuse, early marriage and all kinds of children’s violence. It is in this perspective that the community leader approached the family and encourage them to report the case to the police.
In our report: COVID-19 AFTERSHOCKS: ACCESS DENIED, we look at how Teenage pregnancy threatens to block one million girls, like Telma, from returning to school in Sub-Saharan Africa.
*Names have been changed to protect children’s identities