"They say that i have lost my integrity by breaking my virginity": Experiences of teen school going mothers in two schools in Lusaka Zambia

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Background: Adolescent school-going mothers return to school in the rekindled hope of obtaining an education. However, their re-introduction into the school environment requires adequate support from teachers, fellow pupils, and the community. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of school-going mothers in Lusaka to understand their coping mechanism in the process of re-integration. Method: This is a qualitative case study. We conducted in-depth interviews with 24 school going mothers between the ages of 16-19, purposively selected from 2 schools in Lusaka district. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed, coded using Nvivo 10 software and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The girls reported experiencing stigmatization, discrimination, mockery and abuse from their teachers. Some community members labelled, humiliated, gossiped about and isolated the girls from their friends and classmates because of fear of 'contamination'. Families forced some girls into early marriages making them feel rejected. These experiences resulted in low self-esteem, inferiority complex, poor performance in their academic work and identity crises in the young mothers. Therefore, because of the experiences the girls faced, they developed certain behaviours such as beer drinking, truancy and running away from home. They found it difficult to adjust to motherhood while doing their schoolwork. Conclusion: There is a need for the teachers to undergo training on how to handle young mothers and have a flexible time-table to accommodate adolescent school going mothers when they miss lessons to attend to their babies. Non-parenting school girls should be counseled so that they do not stigmatize adolescent mothers. Parents need to be educated on how to deal with adolescent mothers in the community. The guidance office should have a qualified psychosocial counselor to help create a conducive learning environment for adolescent mothers, by helping them with missed lessons and seeing to it that they are not stigmatized.




Nkwemu, S., Jacobs, C. N., Mweemba, O., Sharma, A., & Zulu, J. M. (2019). “They say that i have lost my integrity by breaking my virginity”: Experiences of teen school going mothers in two schools in Lusaka Zambia. BMC Public Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6394-0

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