Every parent dreams of their child pursuing tertiary education graduating without any unplanned incidences. Phionah Nassanga met with former students who shared their experiences and lessons from being pregnant at university.
Pressure and stress. This is what some students will face while pursuing their education. However, this will not stop them from being adventurous and having some fun.
Choices range from who to date; go clubbing with or gate-crash with that party in the neighbourhood.
Then comes a day when you find out that the pregnancy test turned positive after the fun that was. This comes with emotional stress.
Ritah Kenyangi, 25, a student of Business Administration at St Lawrence University, got to know she was pregnant following a week of mysterious illness at the beginning of her third year.
Kenyangi accepted the fact that she was to become a mother. “Abortion was not an option for me, even when I knew I had disappointed my elder brother who was paying my university fees,” she says.
Amid criticism from friends and family, Kenyangi felt her chances of continuing with school were slim. However, she talked everything through with her brother and he was willing to continue paying her tuition.
Resuming her studies with a keep-calm-carry-on attitude was Kenyangi’s only option, but she was not welcomed by some of her friends. They started avoiding her.
“One day, I walked into one of the lecture rooms where we were to hold discussions. But two of my friends stared at me from their revision corners, nudged each other pretending to study and trying to avoid eye contact with me,” she narrates.
Adjustments and struggles
Despite the support she received from Doreen Kembabazi, her friend, Kenyangi’s pregnancy proved an understandably stressful time. The constant morning sickness forced her to change her study time.
“Kenyangi would barely attend any morning lectures and opted to switch from day to evening classes. This is one thing I thought would help her out,” Kembabazi recalls.
Struggling to beat coursework deadlines was just one of the many issues that Kenyangi faced, especially when she had become heavily pregnant.
“At first, it was fine because my closest friend Doreen did not judge me, even when my stomach increased in size,” Kenyangi recounts. “However, I started feeling more out of place and walking around campus was really hard.”
Although Kenyangi carried on, she was unable to graduate with the rest of the class that year.
“I gave birth a few weeks to the graduation ceremony. The fact that I was not through with my dissertation and had faced some complications during birth meant I wouldn’t share the excitement with my course mates,” she explains. Kenyangi will be graduating this year.
The unwelcome feel
Unlike Kenyangi, Nantumbwe, 24, a second year student at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi, got pregnant while in her first year.
“My parents were horrified and my friends started telling all sorts of stories about me. The entire class looked at me as though I was some criminal,” Nantumbwe recounts.
Nantumbwe felt lonely, not because of the pregnancy but because there was no one willing to listen to her side of the story. With this stress, she had no option but to stay away from campus for a whole year.
“I left campus because I needed space and was tired of being condemned by fellow students. Staying at campus was not going to do me any good as I would not concentrate,” she says.
For Milly Nakabugo, a former student of Kyambogo University, she got pregnant a month after joining her second year, but her classmates did not make a big deal out of it.
“I used to attend the evening classes and at this time of the day students have less time to gossip,” Nakabugo says.
Nakabugo says not one of her friends left her side, which gave her courage of not shying away from the fact that she was pregnant. Some of her friends would help her with course work and notes when she missed lecturers.
Stephen Mukasa, a parent and teacher at Romasa College Mukono, says no parent would wish to see their child pregnant before they are through with school. However, there are things that happen and one cannot stop them.
“I would not be happy but at the end of it all this child deserves another chance because by the time one joins campus they are old enough and know what to do. For whatever decisions they make, they need advice and support from us,” says Mukasa.
Mukasa believes that the negative attitude society has towards pregnant students affects them, leading to psychological distress. Many will feel lonely as associating with individuals of their age bracket will seem difficult.
Margaret Nabaweesi Kasege, a counsellor at J.O.Y Medical Centre, says being a student and at the same time pregnant is quite challenging. Such a student will find it hard to concentrate, especially if the pregnancy is in its early stages.
“Morning sickness, the vomiting will force many students to keep away from class. On attending antenatal sessions concurrently with lectures, one is most likely to lose out on one,” Kasege explains.
She says financially this situation is demanding, so without support this will be hard for a student to manage. This, she says, also leads to incompetence as a result of missed lectures and failure to do revision due to unexpected complications.