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Tale of two pregnant girls determined to complete studies

There was a big rise in teenage pregnancies during the COVID-19 lockdown

Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Stella,13 and 15-year-old Joy (not real names) got pregnant during the prolonged school closure as part of Uganda’s COVID-19 containment measures. Upon learning that they were pregnant, they were told that there was no more schooling for them – a negative reality for many teen mothers.  Until this year, the circumstances of the two teens would have meant leaving school and the very possibility of being forced into marriage. However, the two have continued pursuing their dream to complete their education and achieve their life goals. URN sat down with the two teens and they narrated their schooling experience, challenges and dreams.   

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Stella was in Primary Five at Katunguriu Primary School in Kasese at the time she was impregnated by her “friend” who is a senior four leaver.  While she was discouraged by her peers, her mother and the school head teacher counselled her to continue pursuing her education even when she was four months pregnant.

At first, the experience was devastating for Stella as fellow learners ridiculed her physical appearance. She even thought of running away from school when a group of young boys followed her to the toilet calling her a school elder.

But she hails teachers of reigning in on her scorners. The head teacher in fact threatened to suspend any learner who would laugh at her because she is pregnant.  “I was encouraged by my mother who advised me to get back to school and teachers punished those who would mock me,” she said.

Despite her zeal to keep in school and achieve her dream of being a nurse, Stella describes her time in school as tough.  First, she has to deal with the effects of the pregnancy including general body weakness, vomiting and sometimes lack of concentration in class.

She is also very selective on foodstuff and yet her family cannot afford to provide her alternatives other than what is provided at school and home. “ I also experience difficulties like food selections and throwing out but am determined that when I produce I will leave my baby with its grandmother and I continue with my studies until when am a nurse,” she says.

Joy’s story is another one that depicts resilience and determination to deal with social scorns for a greater dream.  It’s the pain of seeing her peers return to school in January that reinforced her willingness to be in school. She consequently agreed with the family of the boy who impregnated her to offer support.

She recollects her first two weeks as periods where she was shy and other pupils did not like to associate with her.   Joy later bonded with Stella and the two have been supportive to each other to remain focused amidst a community that discounts their desire to remain in school.

Joy however has to deal with routine breaks so that she can either get back home for break or get some rest. But she hails teachers at Katunguru primary staff for offering them moral support.

Edward Twijukye, the head teacher of Katunguru Primary School, says that the two girls will inspire young parents faced with similar choices and obstacles that they too can pursue their goals with the right support.

He says the teachers were prepared in advance on how they can handle such cases and their intervention has so far been helpful.

He says the school is tracing for the third girl who got pregnant but has not yet reported. Three other learners produced. Twijukye says that they are engaging their parents to ensure once their babies are three months old, they can return to return to school.

But one of the teachers at the school said that the presence of such learners also possess serious challenges since they require different foods, more medical attention and sanitation facilities that may not be available at the school.

Chris Busingye, the paternal uncle of Stella is hopeful that their daughter will finish school and become someone important in future. He says the situation she is in could be a key motivation for her to be in school and her family members will support her through.

Masika Kulthum Moshi, the Assistant Education Officer of Kasese District, who is also in charge of special needs education told URN  that the ministry of education in 2019 launched a policy to help teachers identify learners with special needs. She says with this kind of policy and psychological training, the teachers should be ready to manage pregnant learners.

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