ORTON Drift Secondary School in Chirumhanzu district is grappling with numerous pregnancy cases with indications on the ground showing that 10 girls have confirmed pregnancies while 16 others have already eloped.
By Michael Gwarisa in Chirumhanzu
Speaking to Journalist on the side-lines of a National Aids Council (NAC) media tour, Chirumhanzu District Aids Coordinator (DAC), Mr Gwatirisa Masara said the lure of money and cars by the gold panners in the community had led to the spike in pregnancies.
“There is actually a big problem with regards to the issue of school children and pregnancies at this school. We have gold panning activities going on at Nyikavanhu there and the guys come close by here to the mill with their gold.
“Once they get paid, they have got the US dollar at their disposal. They flaunt the United States dollars to the young girls and they easily fall for it. When I was coming here or mobilisation of this issue, I was talking to the school head, he said there is now a problem of pregnancies at this school,” said Masara.
The school’s enrollment total is 305, that is 107 girls and 198 boys. Masara added that a number of girls who had confirmed pregnancy cases were also due for their November examinations. The areas with the highest gold mining and panning activities include Lalapansi, Nyikavanhu and Cecil.
“Some of the school girls stay around here at these small farm houses. This was a farm and this was a compound where the workers would stay. So after the land reform, the compound was converted into a school.
“Students used to learn seated on the bricks before the classroom blocks were built. So some of them stay here while some stay in the surrounding communities since most of them live in areas far from here. We understand not more than 10 who are sitting for their exams are already pregnant.”
According to the Population Services Zimbabwe (PSZ), teenage pregnancies are currently at 22% in the country as a result of lack of family planning information and services at their disposal.
Meanwhile, the Chirumhanzu NAC district office has embarked on a rigorous HIV counselling and testing initiative targeted at gold panners and other key populations in the area in line with their national strategy of increasing HIV treatment and care coverage to the marginalised communities.
“What we are doing as NAC is that we actually come here and test the gold panners, at some point we go to the mine and do the HIV screening and testing and condom distribution.
“For our 2019 plans, we have put the issue of artisanal miners on the agenda as part of our strategy to reach out to key populations. We also do condom distribution and demostrations to ensure there is proper use of condoms. One we test them positive we immediately initiate them on Antiretroviral therapy (ART).”
Zim Zimbabwe’s Contraceptive Prevalence rate (CPR), that is the proportion of women aged 15-49 using family planning is 67%, an improvement from 59% in 2010.
This is one of the highest on the continent but there remains unmet need among women and girls of reproductive age, the majority of them in rural settings and often young. Unmet need for family planning among married couples is 10% in urban areas and 11% in rural areas while unmet need for young people is 12.6%.