Shock and anger have greeted reports that pro-abortion activists visited a school in Kitui County and administered birth control pills to dozens of teenage girls without the consent of their parents.
The activists from Marie Stopes, an organization that advocates women rights to have children by choice, visited Archbishop Boniface Lele Secondary School Mang’elu in Kitui west and allegedly gave female students various forms of contraceptives.
However, Harriet Owire, who led the Marie Stopes team said they only counselled individual students after the main lecture on reproductive health but refused to discuss claims that they administered birth control pills.
Among the pills alleged to have been given to the young girls include Norplant, the hormone-carrying rod used to prevent pregnancy that is inserted under the skin, normally in the upper arm and which is effective for up to five years.
The incident which happened on Wednesday when the world was celebrating the day of the girl child attracted condemnation from parents, Kitui leaders and the Catholic Church, which sponsors the school because the girls are still under the consenting age in matters of reproductive health.
Norplant has serious side effects including prolonged and irregular menstrual bleeding, breast pain, vomiting, weight gain, scalp hair loss among others.
According to angry parents who spoke to Nation, their girls who are in the age bracket of 14 and 17 years were duped into getting injected with family planning drugs yet they do not have any families.
Leaders and parents demanded immediate arrest and prosecution of the Marie Stopes staff involved and thorough screening of all the female students in the school be done to reverse the birth control procedures before they take effect.
One parent Munanie Muusya whose Form Three daughter (Jacinta Temea) was among the students administered with Norplant, confirmed that she had withdrawn her from the school for specialized treatment.
Mrs Muusya said that Marie Stopes should be held accountable for any health risks involved and the school principal of negligence and surrendering the safety of their girls to strangers.
“We are shocked that this was allowed to happen. What those people did will encourage our young girls to careless in engaging in unprotected sex and that they can easily contract sexually transmitted diseases” she protested.
Kitui senator Enoch Wambua condemned the incident saying it borders on criminality.
“This is a grave matter. Exposing children to contraceptive treatment of whatever nature without the consent of their parents is unacceptable,” said Senator Wambua.
Mr Wambua urged the Ministry of Education to get to the bottom of the matter and assure the parents in Kitui County that their children are safe in schools.
“I thought the government had banned school visits in the third term. Parents are not even allowed to visit their children in schools this term. I can’t visit children in schools to motivate them as they prepare for exams. But strangers are allowed into a school to administer contraceptives on minors” he said.
Kitui Catholic Diocesan Secretary for Education Fr Julius Muthamba termed the incident “scandalous and criminal” saying the matter was being investigated and those responsible must be held to account.
The Priest said he had instructed the principal Andrew Kwale to furnish his office with full details of what transpired and why the organization was allowed to take the students through such morally negative lessons and medical procedures.
“The Catholic strong stand against contraceptives is widely known. It’s sad that this happened inside a school that we sponsor but more fundamentally the negative effect in spoiling the girls morally” Fr Muthamba said.
The principal said he allowed the organization into the school compound after they told him that they had been cleared by the county director of education to conduct health awareness to girls but he was not aware that their mission was different.
Mr Kwale admitted that there was some lapse that the Marie Stopes staffs were left alone with the students as he did not expect them to go beyond the guidance and counseling lessons they had requested for.
“Obviously, no one would authorize such a thing in a school. They came with community health workers known to us and we trusted them but we are all trying to establish what happened during the meeting” he said.
The incident happened as Marie Stopes Kenya was smarting from another controversy of running Facebook adverts promising relief to women dumped by their boyfriends after getting pregnant or women whose family planning methods have backfired.
The first advertisement was in the format of a photo of a gazelle with the words: “Hata chali yako akiruka ball usistress ….we gatchu”