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Activists renew demands for pregnant learners to stay in school

Child rights activists want pregnant learners left in school. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Child rights activists want the Ministry of Education to extend the time that pregnant learners can stay in school.

According to the education ministry policy, the learners are only given a period of three months to attend school after they are confirmed pregnant. However, those in candidate classes are allowed to return to school to sit for national examinations under the guidance of the school.

But child rights activists say that the act of sending the female learners away from school within three months of the pregnancy is unfair and puts the learner at a disadvantage since they sit for exams after missing school for at least six months.

Annah Kukundakwe, a programme officer at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) says that the policy contradicts domestic laws and international instruments on the right to education.

Reverend Richard Rukundo, a religious leader attached to the children’s department in Kampala Diocese says that blocking pregnant learners from attending regular classes denies them a chance to get an education that can give them hope for a better tomorrow.

“We need to handle this situation in a better way. These learners need hope as they go through this but what kind of hope can they have when they are put out of school… If a young girl like this cannot go to school and get hope for a better future, what then are we doing for them,” he said.

However, Angella Nansubuga, the head of the gender unit at the Education Ministry says that the three months were decided as the time when the expectant learner can still sit in class without being ridiculed by peers. “But also we do not want to encourage teenage pregnancies. While we want the learners to continue with school, the school environment is not meant for expectant mothers,” Nansubuga said.

Similarly, Dr Richard Mugahi, the Assistant Commissioner for Maternal and Child Health says it is better for expectant mothers to stay home after 12-weeks of pregnancy.

At least 200 of the finalists now sitting for their final examinations reported back to school with pregnancies, after an interruption of the school calendar following an outbreak of COVID-19.

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