Teachers in the Isingiro district’s secondary and primary schools have urged parents to support their daughters who gave birth or became pregnant during the lockdown to return to school so that they can continue their education.

This call was made during a stakeholder meeting with headteachers, district officials, parents, and senior female teachers on the 21st of January 2022 in Isingiro district while being presented with the Revised Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Teenage Pregnancy in School Setting – Uganda recently released by the Ministry of Education and Sports.

The meeting was part of the school-centered activation for adolescent girls and boys on the provision of SRHR information, SGBV, and teenage pregnancy outreaches organized by UYAHF under the Power to Youth program on the 19th and 21st in Kalangala and Isingiro, respectively.

The outreaches were organized under the objectives of raising awareness among adolescent girls and young people on the magnitude of teenage pregnancy, child marriages, and sexual violence problems, including how to prevent and manage these challenges, and raising awareness about the revised guidelines for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in school settings in Uganda, among others.

The meeting attracted 15 participants, including district education officials, Headteachers, senior women teachers, and health workers among others who came from both primary and secondary schools like Kyezimbire primary school and Nakivalley Secondary School.

The teachers said that whereas the school turn up is not worrying, many school-going girls they know who gave birth during the lockdown have not yet returned.

“Three of my pupils gave birth during the lockdown, while one is still pregnant, but none of them has returned to school yet. The three young mothers, probably between the ages of 14–16 years, were in primary six while the pregnant one was in primary five, ” revealed Mrs. Kyarikunda Joyce, the Headmistress of Kyezimbira Primary School.

Mrs. Kyarikunda Angella, the Headmistress of Kyezimbira Primary School makes a submission during the meeting

She does say, however, that as a school, they plan to visit the families of these students, talk to their parents, and see if they can return to school.

Five students from Nakivale Secondary school, a refugee community-based school, gave birth during the lockdown, according to Mr. Jerom Oyom, the school’s headteacher. Two of the students have returned, while three others have not. Jerom notes that stigma and ridicule from fellow students is one of the factors that scare these girls from returning to classes.

“As a school, we’ve established a regular career guidance schedule with the students to speak to them about how they should live in harmony with such a group of students, and we haven’t received any complaints from the two young mothers who have returned,” he added.

He further urged parents to take responsibility and speak with these young ladies about the importance of attending school.

Jenifer (not her real name), one of the young mothers who returned to school after giving birth during the lockdown, says that despite the fact that the other students know she gave birth, she is very free and comfortable in class.

“I’m glad I’m back in school; I’m not ashamed to be a young mother. I want to be a nurse and help my child, but if I don’t come back to school, I will not be able to achieve it,” she said.

When asked how her classmates treat her in class, she says she is friendly to everyone and that no one has ever made fun of her for being a mother.

She urged other teenage mothers to return to school and complete their education, stating that each person has their own future and that staying at home will not solve anything but make them unsuccessful people.

By the end of the meeting, school representatives and district officials pledged to work together to ensure that the guidelines are followed and that the information is shared with other schools that were not present.

A five-member district committee, composed of representatives from all stakeholders, was also formed to oversee the guidelines’ implementation in schools and communities.