She is only 15 years old and still in school, but is already the mother of a six-month-old daughter.
Brianna Johnson* is one of 20 girls who got pregnant and had to drop out of the Kellits High School in Clarendon over the last two years.
She said her predicament did not result from her willingly engaging in sexual intercourse at a young age, but instead it was a case of her being raped.
Sadly, Brianna’s story is all too common across Jamaica, as the society continues to grapple with teenage pregnancy, a number of them because of sexual abuse.
“I went to spend the holiday with my grandmother in Ocho Rios, as I always do, and while there she sent me to the shop,” the young lady recounted. “On my way to the shop, I was drawn into bushes and raped.”
Brianna – who lives in an extended family with both parents, three siblings, grandmother, cousin and her daughter – said she is now struggling to put the ordeal behind her. She also remains fearful of walking alone on the road.
“I try not to put it on my mind or to relive the incident, but I have tried not to walk or go anywhere alone,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Feared Dropping Out
On learning that she was pregnant, she said her greatest fear was not being able to complete high school and further herself in pursuit of a better life, but thanks to the policy of the school, she was spared that despair and is now looking forward to doing her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams next year.
“When it happened I just kept saying ‘I want to go back to school’. Even when school started I thought to myself, ‘I could have been at school now’. But I wasn’t so worried because my mother told me I would be going back to school, and it’s OK now because I got to go back and finish my subjects,” she shared.
Brianna was, however, reluctant to return to her community at first, as she was fearful of what people would say. She decided to go back after rumours started that she had got pregnant for her brother.
“While in Ocho Rios, where my grandmother lives, I decided that I didn’t want to return to my community. Then my father called my mother and said persons in the community were saying that my brother got me pregnant because they haven’t seen anybody visiting me at home,” she explained.
“At that point, I changed my mind and decided to return because I didn’t want persons to believe that was true. I told them that they can say what they want to say, I know what happened but I am not telling them.”
The teen mom, who in the absence of the father had to give the child her last name, said her mother has been extremely supportive, which has made it easier for her to resume getting an education.
“She [my mother] told me that when I return to school I should focus on my studies and not to let this [pregnancy] happen again,” Brianna shared.
“When I go home I have to care for my child and do homework, which is very challenging, but my mother is helpful.”
She has also not experienced any problems settling back into school, as her peers and teachers alike have been very supportive.
Brianna is now looking forward to sitting five CSEC subjects next year, three fewer than what she would have liked due to financial constraints, but intends to do the others at a later date, as she wants to become a nurse.
“I want to become a nurse because I like taking care of children, and I want to take care of my family when they get old, so I have decided not to idle,” she said.
“Plus, when I get older I don’t want my children on the road begging; I want to be able to work and provide for them. My family will help me but I don’t want to be like some girls.”