Study shows Covid left more girls out of school

The report indicates that families of teenage mothers in 2020 spent Shs1.28 trillion on sexual and reproductive health care and an estimated health facility expenditure of Shs246.9 billion. 

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Out of 200 girls interviewed in 12 primary schools, 159 were either pregnant or married

A study conducted in a dozen primary schools sketches a troubling picture of how the pandemic headwinds buffeted female teenage learners.

The findings from the study conducted in March 2022—a few weeks after schools were reopened after a nearly two-year shutdown—show that 159 out 200 girls interviewed in 12 primary schools were either pregnant or married. Of the 159 girls, 107 were recorded as pregnant while 52 were married.

When the government concluded that classrooms were not safe to open after a second Covid-19 wave blindsided the country, many observers worried about the educational forfeits.

A report authored by the John Paul II Justice & Peace Centre titled ‘Covid-19 and Education of Teenage Girls in Uganda’ shows that along with those forfeits was a gendered impact.

The hard information from the study was provided by 200 participants across four regions of Uganda. The study’s subjects included headteachers of primary schools, Covid-19 affected teenage girls, parents or guardians of the affected girls, district education officials, teachers of the targeted schools, senior woman teachers, and community leaders.

In Oryang Primary School, one of the surveyed schools, only 52 of the 157 (P.3 to P.6) girls who enrolled in 2020 returned in 2022. Of these, 69 got pregnant or had children as of March 2022.

 To compound matters, 54 of the 69 who delivered are not even willing to go back to school. The rest of the 28 girls could not be traced by the school administration.

According to Mr Alfred Avuni, the director of John Paul II Justice & Peace Centre, they realised that there were many conditions keeping the girls away from school.

“Most of them had a poor economic background which was compounded by the effect of Covid-19, the pregnant girls were tired of being made fun of by their fellow pupils, and the condition brought about by the pregnancies like vomiting, the breastfeeding among others,” Mr Avuni said.

Mr Avuni added that teachers in the schools did not know how to handle pregnant girls or breastfeeding mothers.

He also said the fortnight-long training facilitated by the government for teachers and headteachers shortly before the schools reopened was not adequate.

“This calls for both financial and human capital. The church also has a platform where it can address the parents, pupils and the government about the issues at hand,” he said.

The pandemic is also said to have made work options attractive to former pupils.

Fr Frederick Tusingire, the national director—lay apostolate, says caution should be the byword.

“We should come out with the facts about this reality about modern forms of slavery, especially human trafficking. About child abuse, people need to be aware of the rights of children for better protection of the children. This can be done by the church and government,” Tusingire said.

He added that awareness campaigns will help peel back the mask for parents who are happy to send their children to work abroad.

“They only know that they will be paid in millions and that there are many jobs abroad, which is not the case for Uganda,” Fr Tusingire said.

Mr Avuni said up to 80 percent of the perpetrators of the pregnancies were not brought to justice simply because some were just casual (contract) workers in the villages. The restricted movements during the pandemic did not help matters.

“Some would just use their alias and it would get hard to trace them once the deed was done. The common names of perpetrators identified through the study were Rasta, Commando, Ninja, Gadafi, among other aliases,” he said.


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