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Women educationists advise gov’t on reintegration of teenage mothers in schools

FAWE Uganda Silver Jubilee Launch at Kololo Independence Grounds. The chief guest Janet Kataha Museveni committed to support the campaign to send vulnerable girls back to school.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Forum for African Women Educationalists-FAWE Uganda has asked the government to make adjustments to the school system to enable teenage mothers and pregnant learners to return to school.

The two-year shutdown of schools due to Covid-19 resulted in a surge in teen pregnancies across the country. According to UN Population Fund data, over 32,000 adolescent conceptions were documented on average per month in Uganda during the 2020-2021 lockdown.

The surge in the number of teenage pregnancies caused social panic and also forecast doom for the majority of girls. With thousands of girls risking dropping out of school, the ministry of education and sports directed that pregnant and teenage mothers be allowed to return to school.

Suzan Opok Tumusiime, the FAWE Uganda Executive Director says that although sending such a category of learners back to school is a mileage, schools and the education system must be empowered if they are to support breastfeeding and pregnant learners.

Tumusiime made the remarks on Thursday at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds as women academicians launched their jubilee celebrations with a program that is intended to support 2000 girls who had dropped out of school or are on verge of dropping out due to pregnancy and COVID-19 related effects.

Speaking at the sidelines of the event, the FAWE Uganda Executive Director noted that currently, schools where the special group of girls is being sent, don’t have the capacity to handle them with a possibility that the girls might eventually drop out due to unfavorable conditions thus failing government intention of giving them a second chance.

Citing examples, she noted that many schools don’t have places where teenage mothers can keep their babies while in class, and such conditions might force the learners to eventually drop out of school. She further added that there is a need to retool the senior teachers in schools on how they can care for the group of learners in question.

Tumusiime says that the proposed adjustment cannot be difficult to implement as it has already been done here in Uganda to support pregnant and breastfeeding refugee learners in refugee-hosting communities mainly in Pader.

At the beginning of term one, many schools admitted pregnant and breastfeeding learners but the majority failed to accommodate them in the long run thus sending them back to their respective homes midway.

However, some schools which put up a conducive environment for learners in this category never found any difficulty in handling them. In Soroti for instance, schools like Awoja Primary School, Kichinjaji Primary School, and Soroti Secondary School created rooms and shade to take care of the babies and their attendants.

The Minister of Education and Sports Janet Kataha Museveni who was the chief guest at the event noted that as the country moves to look for better means of how the pregnant and breastfed learners can be better reintegrated into schools, there is a strong need to put much focus on underlying causes.

According to Janet, with preventative measures like parents playing their roles in the lives of their children, the tragedies that befell the girls during lockdown can be stopped.

Suzan Mateke, the State Minister in charge of youth and children affairs advised that as development partners and government move to cater for the affected girls, there should be efforts to take care of the boys too as many have also had thorough different factors being pushed out of school.

FAWE is currently hunting for 4 billion shillings which will be used to support over 2,000 disadvantaged girls and ensure that they return to school. During the event, the first lady personally contributed 20 million shillings in cash with many other development partners promising to support the cause.

The beneficiaries, according to FAWE, will be selected from districts that were most affected by teenage pregnancy during covid19 with the priority given to girls from families who are badly off.

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