As schools set to reopen for semi-candidates in early March and as candidates prepare for their final exams, some learners will be left out because of unexpected pregnancies. It is nearly a year since educational institutions were closed. Parents and learners are excited about returning to school. Alas, some learners will be missing their core friends and classmates as the result of Covid- 19 lockdown. What is the fate of those left out for their future and of Uganda?
The government and education stakeholders have a moral duty to make sure that all children access education since education is a human right. Pregnant girls and young mothers must not be excluded. The cost of excluding this category from returning to school is astronomic. World Vision Report (WVR) 2020, states that “a lost education is catastrophic to young mothers, their children, and their communities”.
WVR further states that “if countries across sub-Saharan African fail to ensure the continued education of adolescent mothers, the region could see its economy suffer $10 billion loss in GDP above and beyond the immediate crippling effects of Covid-19.” WVR indicates that lower earnings for women in adulthood due to low educational attainment leads to nationwide losses in human capital wealth. The World Bank reveals that “each percentage point increase in girl’s secondary education completion rate is estimated to raise the average GDP by 0.3 per cent and annual GPD growth by 0.2 per cent.” If girls remain in school, the possibility of sexual violence and pregnancy during her teenage years are reduced thus, increasing her employable and high standard living.
WVR indicates that “during school closure, teenage girls spend more time with boys and men than they would when in school,” hence exposing them to the risk of sexual harassment. Ministry of Education provides scholastic materials, but it offers little information relating to sexual and reproductive health education and services, hence exposing girls to sex related exploitation.
Therefore, more information on how girls should detect and expel sex exploitation should be availed. If education stakeholders do not support pregnant and adolescent mothers to remain in school, Uganda is likely to face socio-economic hardships in future. There is also need to strengthen enforcing laws against defilement. WVR states “that some rape cases go unreported due to fear of stigma, reprisal and difficulty in accessing criminal justice”. Sex predators exploit weakness for law enforcement to act.