Although an overall decline has occurred in adolescent fertility in Kenya, the proportion of births to teenagers that takes place prior to marriage is rising. At the same time that premarital sex and childbearing have increased, educational participation has expanded considerably, especially for girls. Using data from nearly 600 adolescents aged 12-19 in combination with data collected from 33 primary schools that the adolescents attended, this paper explores whether certain aspects of the school environment affect the likelihood of early and unprotected sex among adolescent girls and boys in three districts of Kenya. Because of the concern with “schoolgirl pregnancy” in Kenya, the paper also explores the temporal relationship between premarital sex and pregnancy, and school dropout. The results suggest that, although neither the school nor the home influences whether boys engage in premarital sex, for girls, a school characterized by girl-friendly teachers and a gender-neutral atmosphere, and a home containing female role models and the extra support that two parents can provide, reduce the risk of premarital sex. On the other hand, girls are more likely to engage in premarital sex if they attend schools where considerable pressure to have sex is reported. The school environment also appears to have an impact on whether or not sexually active boys choose to use contraceptives. A gender-neutral environment leads to greater contraceptive use among boys, as do schools where students have greater knowledge of reproduction. Finally, even if certain school characteristics significantly affect the risk of premarital sex for girls, the data indicate that pregnancy is not the primary reason that girls leave school early.
Mensch, Barbara, Wesley H. Clark, Cynthia B. Lloyd, and Annabel Erulkar. 1999. "Premarital sex and school dropout in Kenya: Can schools make a difference?" Policy Research Division Working Paper no. 124. New York: Population Council.