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Schools Still Shun Pregnant Girls

Hundreds of other young girls have the same tale. They drop out of school every year and end up in marriage because the setup does not allow them to stay in school. They are scorned, abused, victimized and physiologically tortured by fellow learners, teachers and the community.

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Margaret Nambi dropped out of school at 13. Her personal growth, health, dreams, fundamental rights and freedoms were all shattered, the moment she realized that she was pregnant. At that Age, Nambi decided that school was not the best place for her.

Hundreds of other young girls have the same tale. They drop out of school every year and end up in marriage because the setup does not allow them to stay in school. They are scorned, abused, victimized and physiologically tortured by fellow learners, teachers and the community.

Often, girls withdraw from school once they establish that they are pregnant, in order to avoid shame among their peers. Nambi says that was her only option because, in fact, the school was about to expel her as a disciplinary measure.

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Initially, the government policy required that pregnant girls should be expelled from school.  However, this was relaxed in 2009 with a directive allowing those in candidate classes to sit their final examinations.

According to Angela Nakafeero, the gender technical advisor in the Ministry of Education, pregnancy contributes 25 percent to the school dropout rate in Uganda. As a result, the number of girls completing the education cycle continues to dwindle, compared to the boys.

Primary school enrollment statistics indicate that although the enrollment at the primary level stands at 49 per cent girls 51 per cent boys, less than 30 percent of the girls who start primary one, complete the primary education cycle.

David Ssengendo, headteacher Buganda Road Primary School says that the school has no alternative for pregnant pupils, but hastens to add that often, the school gets to know long after the pupils have dropped out of school.

"It would be next to impossible to let a pregnant pupil continue but most times even before we know, these pupils are taken out of school by their parents," Sengendo told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.

Hassan Gombe, the head teacher of Mulago High School says that pregnancy leads to automatic withdrawal from school. He explains that at his school pregnant students have no option but to leave. Gombe says that however girls who are free to rejoin the school after childbirth.

'Normally, when these girls become pregnant, they are not willing to remain in the same school even after delivering. So they move to other schools. We have a number of students every year that come after having children. We allow them to come and continue with school."

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Beatrice Nkubi, a nurse at Kitante Secondary School says that pregnant children, often discovered during routine health checks are handed over to the parents for further management. She, however, adds that both parents and children are taken through a counselling session before the school lets go of them.

"We cannot just chase s girl from school and tell her that she is pregnant. We have to talk to the parents and encourage them not to chase their daughters from school."

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In its recent report- 'An Assessment of the Compatibility of Ugandan Legislation with the Convention on The Human Rights of the Child', Uganda Human Rights Commission recommended that government amend the 2008 Education Act to include a clause that stops school going children from leaving school.

Ruth Ssekindi, The UHRC Director Monitoring And Inspections Explains That The Act Would Help Protect All Girls Whether Pregnant Or Not To Remain In School.

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Dr Daniel Nkaada, the Commissioner Primary education in the Ministry of Education says that pregnancy is not a value that they would encourage students to have since the ministry cannot guarantee their wellbeing in school.

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When some of the girls leave school, they are also sent away by their parents. A few of them have ended up in the hands of well-wishers like Wakisa Ministries, a Christian funded organization that supports girls that drop out of school as a result of pregnancy.

Vivian Kityo, the Director of Wakisa Ministries says that the number of girls leaving school as a result of pregnancy has increased over the years. She says that at least 100 girls are received annually at Wakisa ministries, some running from schools, and several others, after being disgracefully sent away from home by their parents.

Kityo advises parents to become more responsible and give their children the right sexuality education.

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Currently, the youngest expectant mother at the home is aged 12.

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