Tororo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The education department of Tororo district is concerned that many more girls might not return to school when educational institutions reopen. The fear came after a mini-survey conducted in the district indicated that more than 100 girls had been impregnated since the closure of schools in March.
All educational institutions were closed halfway through the first school term as the government sought means to control the spread of coronavirus disease. The measure left up to 15 million learners stranded in their homes with no plans for continuity in learning.
Now the education department of Tororo district has found that 30 percent of the female population might not return to school when the institutions are reopened because they will either still be pregnant, breastfeeding or even married. The department record shows that there were 87 impregnated girls in Osukulu county and another 46 in Molo sub-county.
According to the findings of the survey, 27 of the girls have already been married off. Catherine Akongo, an education officer in Tororo district says that the sub-county leaders are still on ground compiling the statistics but hastens to add that the findings are ‘disturbing.’ The district has a population of 149,462 primary school learners.
“When Osukulu gives 87, then you begin thinking of how many we are having in Mukuju because Mukuju has two industries and the trading centres around, meaning that the report we are going to get in that area is quite big,” Akong says.
She appeals to the government to plan for the girls who have conceived during the lockdown such that they are convinced to return to school after giving birth.
The local leaders in the district have attributed the increasing teenage pregnancies to the prolonged lockdown amidst an increase in poverty levels. Many of them are referring to experiences in other countries where prolonged closure led to girls remaining out of school. A case in point is the 2014 school closures in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone
Samali Sabano, Tororo district Assistant Chief Administrative Officer-CAO says many children are not used to staying home for such a long period yet parents have also neglected their responsibilities towards protecting their children.
Janet Enenecia, a teacher and mother of three says that the lack of basic needs like food and sanitary pads have lured many girls to fall prey to the antics of men. Usually, early marriages increase among vulnerable families because the bride price they receive comes in handy as support for the rest of the household.
James Osamai, the Tororo district probation officer says the district through World Vision has started a door to door sensitization drive to create awareness on dangers of the rampant teenage pregnancy. Meanwhile, Moses Obenen the program manager of Give Us Wings, a child rights organization is calling for the arrest of parents who reluctantly hand over their children for marriage.