Three Primary School Students Among 169 School Children Pregnant In Trinidad

TRINIDAD GUARDIAN- Shock­ing sta­tis­tics were re­vealed on Wednes­day that three pri­ma­ry school pupils were among 169 school chil­dren who be­came preg­nant in the last five years.

And po­lice can­not pros­e­cute of­fend­ers as the girls were re­luc­tant or can­not iden­ti­fy the fa­thers of their ba­bies.

Ac­cord­ing to Raf­fiena Ali-Boodoos­ingh, the pres­i­dent of the Na­tion­al Par­ent Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, some 169 school chil­dren be­came preg­nant be­tween 2014 and March 2019.

She pro­vid­ed the in­for­ma­tion yes­ter­day be­fore a meet­ing of the Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (So­cial Ser­vices and Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion) which is con­duct­ing an in­quiry in­to the preva­lence of teenage preg­nan­cy.

“Al­low me to present teenage preg­nan­cy cas­es for the pe­ri­od 2014 to March 2019, which was giv­en to me by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, and I have it in ed­u­ca­tion dis­tricts. We have Ca­roni – 15…Port-of-Spain and en­vi­rons – 59; St George East – 31; North East­ern – 25; Vic­to­ria – 16; South East­ern – 17; St Patrick – 6 and we had three girls at­tend­ing pri­ma­ry school on this list­ing…So you know the ex­pres­sion, chil­dren mak­ing chil­dren is heard in all cor­ners as a fac­tor af­fect­ing our so­ci­etal ills to­day and we as a se­ri­ous na­tion has to take a se­ri­ous look at teenage preg­nan­cy.”

The JSC al­so heard from Act­ing Supt Ve­na But­ler of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice Child Pro­tec­tion Unit that more than 600 cas­es of teenage preg­nan­cy have been in­ves­ti­gat­ed in the last five years.

She said some vic­tims say they can­not iden­ti­fy who got them preg­nant.

But­ler said since 2015 there have been 606 cas­es, but she was un­able to pro­vide da­ta on the spe­cif­ic age group of the of­fend­ers, how many cas­es in­volved adult men or was the re­sult of in­cest.

“We ac­knowl­edge at the on­set that we have some chal­lenges in the col­lec­tion of da­ta. We al­so ac­knowl­edge that our da­ta may not be cur­rent­ly dis­ag­gre­gat­ed to be able to pro­vide spe­cif­ic in­for­ma­tion in all the fields,” she said.

In pre­vi­ous meet­ings of the JSC, it was made pub­lic that there were 3,777 over­all teenage preg­nan­cies in this coun­try be­tween 2014 and 2018.

The com­mit­tee was al­so told that the is­sue of teen preg­nan­cy has nev­er been a stand-alone top­ic for dis­cus­sion be­tween the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and the NPTA.

“I am shocked to hear that to tell you the truth,” said In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Paul Richards, the chair­man of the Com­mit­tee.

The Fam­i­ly Plan­ning As­so­ci­a­tion, FPA, al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the in­quiry and the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s projects man­ag­er Ava Ram­per­sad said that young able-bod­ied peo­ple were not the on­ly ones en­gag­ing in sex­u­al ac­tiv­i­ty.

“There is an alarm­ing off­shoot of con­cerns with dif­fer­ent­ly-abled per­sons as well with the sub­ject mat­ter.”

As the meet­ing went along, com­mit­tee mem­ber An­cil An­toine raised the is­sue of fe­male Venezue­lan teenagers.

“A sit­u­a­tion that’s sup­posed to take place on Fri­day (reg­is­tra­tion of Venezue­lan mi­grants) where we are go­ing to be deal­ing with Venezue­lans com­ing to Trinidad and To­ba­go, have you put any­thing in place to deal with teenage preg­nan­cies among Venezue­lans who will now be re­sid­ing in Trinidad and To­ba­go for the next year as the case may be?”

To this ques­tion, Dona Da Cos­ta Mar­tinez, FPA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, replied that since last year her or­gan­i­sa­tion has been work­ing with the UN­HCR (Unit­ed Na­tions High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees) to pro­vide sex­u­al re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices to the Venezue­lan pop­u­la­tion.

The Child Pro­tec­tion Unit has al­ready been deal­ing with peo­ple from Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries who were vic­tims of sex­u­al of­fences, the Com­mit­tee was told.

The prin­ci­pal or the Mary Care Home for Teenage Moth­ers, Deb­o­rah De Rosia then in­formed the com­mit­tee that they cur­rent­ly have preg­nant Venezue­lan teenagers in their care, in­clud­ing “one who just de­liv­ered her ba­by.”

She said the teenagers at the fa­cil­i­ty were re­ferred by the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty of Trinidad and To­ba­go.

She added that her or­gan­i­sa­tion is open to life, re­gard­less of where the per­son comes from.

Yes­ter­day’s JSC fol­lowed up on a ses­sion in April where sta­tis­tics were pro­vid­ed that shed light on the prob­lem of teenage preg­nan­cy, in­clud­ing that every month at least 62 teenage girls be­tween the ages of 13 to 19 are re­port­ed as preg­nant.

JSC mem­bers were per­plexed as to who the fa­thers are since that in­for­ma­tion was lack­ing. Di­rec­tor of Child Af­fairs in the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty, Safiyah Noel ad­mit­ted that such in­for­ma­tion of­ten re­mained a mys­tery and in some cas­es, the fa­thers are from the com­mu­ni­ty or the home.

Of­fi­cials al­so lament­ed the lev­el of un­der-re­port­ing as many girls may abort their preg­nan­cies and oth­ers lie to health of­fi­cials about their ac­tu­al age. They said that in ad­di­tion to preg­nan­cies, risky teen sex­u­al ac­tiv­i­ty is an­oth­er ma­jor wor­ry.