The country has been awash with reports of increased teen pregnancies following the closure of schools to reduce coronavirus transmission.
To prevent further teenage pregnancies and child marriages, the country needs to increase awareness on good parenting practices and sex education.
The first target has to be the parents so that they become aware of all steps of good parenting and how they can execute the good parenting practices during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Parents have to be talking about sex with their teens, including encouraging them to stay away from sex and the use of effective birth controls to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies.
The second target has to be the teenagers themselves. They need to know how to take advantages of good parenting practices from their parents, which includes sex education.
The third target has to be community, traditional and faith leaders.
Communities have a big role to play in assisting children to become responsible members of the society by avoiding practices that might be hazardous to their lives.
Traditional leaders are custodians of culture, so they have the responsibility of protecting their subjects from cultural beliefs that are not child-friendly.
They also have to ensure that they are making child-friendly by-laws to end teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Faith leaders have a role of providing spiritual counselling to parents and children so that they only do that which is right and avoid sinful acts.
During the Covid-19 period when schools have temporarily closed, parents should be primary sex educators for their children.
Parents must further be aware that teenage pregnancy is a social issue that is closely linked to other issues like health education and poverty.
Our nation is already struggling to heal from poverty. The rise of teenage pregnancies and child marriages will obviously result into increased poverty because Malawi is expecting a lot of births from teenagers which will increase the rapidly growing population.
This will affect the budget which is targeting 18 million people. It is also expected that there will be a lot of maternal health issues and the budget at both national and household level is likely not to cover the expected New babies.
The government—especially the ministries of health, gender, homeland security and the Judiciary—has to ensure that there are adequate laws to protect children and the legislation is well-interpreted and enforced on perpetrators.
Whether from poor or rich families, schools are closed or open, children need a safe and supportive parent or guardian.
This strategy can be a key factor in promoting positive social and moral behaviours of teenagers.
The presence of supportive parents and guardians in the life of teenagers can mitigate the rise of unplanned pregnancies and child marriages.
There is therefore need for teenagers to be with adults who can be or have been modelling good moral behaviour so that they learn from them.
The effects of uncontrolled child-bearing carry health, economic and social costs for the teenage mothers and their babies.
For our nation to control the rapidly growing population, abstinence and use of birth control measures for teenagers who cannot abstain can prevent unplanned pregnancies and slow population growth.
Above all these strategies, the year of God is paramount.
Considering that schools are opening soon, I would propose an introduction of sexual reproductive and health rights in schools. If they are already on the syllabus, there is need to review and improve the curriculum.
This would probably work better if health workers specialised in SRHR could be hired to give talks in schools so that learners have expert sex education in schools.