Full statistics aren't yet available -- but even with partial numbers, it is clear that teen pregnancies are on the rise in Burundi.
So far this year, 30 students from the Budahunga communal school in the Kirundo province have already been expelled for being pregnant. Ten others from two private schools of Bujumbura have suffered the same fate. The Bafashebige coalition, an organization promoting education for all, says the situation is spiraling out of control, and won't get better until teenagers start using condoms.
Many Burundi teenagers believe condoms to be unpractical; others just don't feel confident about using them. One student from Rohero High School says they're too much of a hassle: "Condoms need a lot of concentration. You must check that it isn't torn, that it's correctly placed, that it doesn't slide off during intercourse."
But "using a condom is a matter of life and death," assures an official of PSI Burundi, a health NGO. For him, the country is past having a debate about whether or not to use condoms, especially since young people are so much more active sexually these days. The key is to make them understand that condoms are the only way to prevent pregnancy and transmitted diseases.
Unfortunately, even those who want to use condoms -- and whose parents are supportive -- are ashamed to ask for them in public in the few stores and health centers where they can be found. In order to get around the taboo, there is an urgent need for condom dispensers in school bathrooms, for teenagers to be able to get them without feeling embarrassed.
Not enough sex education in high schools
Most school officials don't agree. "Distributing prophylactics is against school values," says the director of a Bujumbura high school. He believes contraception is the responsibility of other institutions -- and of parents.
A former director of the Musinzira High School believes there must be more sex education classes, but agrees schools shouldn't encourage teenage sex by distributing condoms to their students.
For the secondary school education planning board (BEPES) -- whose goal, among others, is for schools to be at the forefront in the fight against AIDS --preventing pregnancies in high schools is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
Until then, pregnant teens will continue to be expelled from school -- to be reintegrated only when they present a medical document attesting they have given birth.
Read more from Syfia in French.
Photos- UN Photos