School leaders welcome African Union ruling on pregnant girls

One of the girls who was defiled and made pregnant, at Wakisa Ministries. The director, Ms Vivian Kityo, says the effects of defilement are physical, psychological and social. PHOTO/FILE/ISMAIL KEZAALA. 

What you need to know:

  • The policy directs all schools to prioritise the admission of pregnant and breastfeeding girls. 

A section of school leaders in Uganda have supported part of the ruling by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) of the African Union, which seeks to end the expulsion of pregnant adolescent girls from school and stop mandatory pregnancy tests.

ACERWC, in a September 15 statement, said the Legal and Human Rights Centre and the Centre for Reproductive Rights (LHRCCRR), on behalf of Tanzanian girls, had accused the Tanzanian government, of violating the rights of adolescent girls.

The LHRCCRR, according to the statement, alleged, among others, that Tanzanian government’s policy on the expulsion of pregnant and married girls with no opportunity of re-entry to schools and the forced pregnancy testing conducted in schools violate various provisions of the African Children’s Charter.

The ruling is partly in line with Uganda’s revised guidelines of 2020 for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in schools. The Ministry of Education had revised the guidelines to ensure continuity of learning for girls who got pregnant during the prolonged Covid-induced closure of schools. 

The policy directs all schools to prioritise the admission of pregnant and breastfeeding girls. 
But the implementation of the policy was not possible in many schools because of the social ideals, which oppose mixing pregnant and breastfeeding girls with naive younger learners. 

Peas schools, a chain of 30 secondary schools that have been accommodating pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls in their schools, said they partly agree with the ruling.

Mr Henry Senkasi, the director of Peas schools, said for eight years now, they have been undertaking this innovation of mixing pregnant girls with other learners. But he said there are gaps in the ruling.

“We always do mandatory pregnancy to be sure of what we are dealing with. Some of the girls do not even know that missing their menstruation period means they are pregnant,” he told this newspaper.

Ms Mercy Agote, the head teacher of Ngora High School, told this publication she having a pregnant student and four learners who have been delivered of babies.

Ms Agote’s school is in Teso, a sub-region where the teenage pregnancy rate is very high at 30 percent.

“After Covid-19, we reached the parents of the child mothers and they had to come back to school. I have one who is still breastfeeding, they always bring the child at break and lunch to breastfeed,” she revealed.