By Solomon Hamala
Teddy Auma 15 a student of Kifuyo Secondary School, Buyinja Sub County Namayingo district fell pregnant during the COVID 19 break and successfully gave birth to a bouncing baby girl in August last year.
Following government’s decision to re-open schools on January 10 Auma feared to report back to her former school for fear of being stigmatized.
More 75 girls at the same school, Kifuyo Secondary are in a similar situation after falling pregnant during the COVID 19 break and are fearful of reporting back.
64 of these are below the age of 16 years.
To ensure the girls realize their life time dreams, management of Kifuyo secondary school has decided to adapt conducting home based lessons for the girls who could have either fallen pregnant or delivered during the COVID 19 break.
According to the senior woman teacher Kifuyo secondary school, Bernadette Aguti, in case lesson teachers are busy they offer study materials to the students to ensure they cope up with the others in class.
Aguti said the number of pregnant girls at the school could even be higher since the school was yet to carry out a pregnancy test following the return of learners after the COVID 19 break.
“We are mandated to carry out a test after every two months but the school realized that this would scare away some girls from studying,” she said.
She said besides conducting lessons in homes, teachers always get some time on weekends to offer counseling to the girls to instill hope in them.
“We want these girls to have that confidence that even after falling pregnant or giving birth one can still make it in life just like any other person,” she said.
Fighting Stigma Amongst Students
During school parades held every Monday and Fridays, the school woman and male teachers encourage students not to isolate or hurl insults at girls who have delivered or fallen pregnant while in school as a way of fighting stigma.
“We want these students to realize that at one time they will be out of school to set up their own families,” Aguti said.
Aguti has always been referring to herself as the best example of students who fell pregnant before completing her ordinary level but picked up the courage to pursue her studies and later secure a bachelors degree in education.
Specialized Counselling Offered By Various Non Governmental Organizations
After realizing that a huge number of girls had dropped out of school or fallen pregnant during the COVID 19 break, local nongovernmental organizations like friends of hope (FOH) came in to offer support in form of counseling to affected students besides senior male and female teachers in all schools in Namayingo district.
The project manager FOH, Andrew Masinde said the organization was also carrying out a survey to establish the number of boys who could have also dropped out of school during the COVID 19 break for early marriages.
“All eyes are focused on the girl child not knowing that there are some boys out there who also dropped out of school for marriage,” he said.
The organization also invites prominent female personalities both local and national to speak to the female students, boys and their teachers during the counseling sessions.
The head teacher Kifuyo secondary school, Moses Namisi said the school has been forced to recruit some five additional teaching staff to fill the existing gap.
“All the new staff are being supported using funds collected by the parents teachers association account,” he said.
Namisi said most of the students who delivered were among the best since joining the government aided school.
“The only option was to adopt the home based teaching because we would be denying these children a bright future,” he said.
EXPERIENCES OF THE CHILD MOTHERS
Jane Nekesa an orphan was in senior two at Kifuyo secondary school when the school broke off due to COVID 19 outbreak.
Nekesa while shedding tears said she was lured into having unprotected sex by a boda boda rider who offered shillings 3500 to enable them buy food.
Her sickly uncle had failed to provide food for the two dependants for two days leaving her with one option of offering sex for money.
“I reached an extent of seeking some job as waiter in one of the bars within Kifuyo trading center in vain,” she said.
Fortunately Nekesa gave birth to a baby boy in November last year.
The father to the child however denied the pregnancy and has since escaped from the village leaving her at the mercy of sympathizers.
“When I rang him informing him about the pregnancy upon realizing that I had missed my periods twice he barked at me saying am a prostitute,” she said.
She had from the start of joining senior one wished to study until advanced level and later pursue a law course while at university.
Patricia Akumu, a senior three student said she wakes up at 7a.m, prepares breakfast for her two sisters before seeing them off to school.
Akumu said she later takes a bath ready for the home based lessons that start at 9 a.m lasting for between one to two hours.
“I later get time to take care of my child after the studies, preparing lunch,” she said.
The headteacher Banda secondary school Namayingo district, Aphan Kagoda attributed the increase on number of teenage pregnancies on the culture amongst the Samia people.
“Here girls prefer having sex at a very early age of 9,” he said.
Kagoda said the huge presence of fishermen has also contributed to the big number of pregnancies since they lure the girls in exchange for huge sums of money.
The district education officer Namayingo, Kaawo Nayi Kawere said 2432 girls in both primary and secondary schools in the district have not yet reported to school following its re-opening after the COVID 19 break.
Kawere said he believes the girls could have either fallen pregnant or given birth during the COVID 19 break and are fearful of returning to school for fear of being stigmatized.
The LC 5 chairman Namayingo, Ronald Sanya urged parents to encourage their daughters who became pregnant or gave birth during the COVID 19 lockdown to return to school to ensure they complete their education.
Sanya said authorities were also carrying out investigations following reports that some parents had adopted a habit of marrying off their daughters to elderly men in traditional Samia culture during late night hours.
“These people elude arrest by holding secret weddings attended by few guests late in the night,” he said.