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Bundibugyo turns to para-social workers to curb early child pregnancies

Closure of schools for could fuel the already high cases of child pregnancies among school girls

Bundibugyo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Bundibugyo district is resorting to the use para-social workers to address cases of child pregnancies during the closure of schools.

Last week, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced fresh restrictions as part of measures to control the COVID-19 transmissions in the country in face of the second wave of the pandemic.

Among the fresh restrictions, the president directed the closure of all educational institutions across the country for 42 days.

During the first lockdown last year, more than 2,000 girls were impregnated while others were married off.

The para-social workers are persons of integrity identified by community leaders to voluntarily handle or refer family related issues to responsible offices.

Last year, the district recorded more than 200 teenage pregnancies in the first lockdown with many of these school girls.

The District Probation Officer Grace Pamela says they are worried that the closure of schools for 42 days could fuel the already high cases of child pregnancies among school girls.

She says many young girls are usually lured by men into sexual acts with a promise of taking care of their basic needs during such times when parents are financially constrained.

Pamela says that they found out that poverty and disagreements over ownership of property are contributing greatly to Gender-Based Violence. She says they are relying on the efforts of local NGOs in the district.

However, the probation officer decries the limited resources at her disposal that affect the operations of her office.

Erias Byomukama, one of the para-social workers in Ntotoro sub county says that within two weeks, the sub-county has already registered four cases of early pregnancies. All the victims are primary school girls.

Byomukama says the cases could rise with many children back home if there is no collective responsibility from leaders and parents.

However, Byomukama decries the lack of resources including transport to support their intervention, appealing to the government to recognize their work.

Christine Atukunda working with Agency in Co-operation for Research and Development-ACORD, a local NGO empowering young women and girls says there is a need to empower girls with information. She criticizes parents and local leaders for concealing defilement of pregnancy cases.

She says learners are no longer prepared to deal with sexual relationship demands with many teachers aiming at only completing the syllabus.

Justus Bithaghalire, the Bundibugyo District Education Officer advises parents to be vigilant of any relationships their children are engaged in.

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