The 1st National Dialogue on Re-integration of Pregnant Girls and Teen Mother Learners back school organised by Centre for Education, Graduate Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (C4GEE) and CEHURD was held on the 24th February,2022 at Hotel Africana, Kampala.  The dialogue was under the theme “Her Education, Her Right” and presented an opportunity to seek opinions from various stakeholders on how best pregnant girls and teenage mothers can best be reintegrated back into school after Covid-19 School closures.

C4Gee’s vision is seeing a Society where Women, Children and other Vulnerable groups enjoy their full right to Education.

In 2019, when COVID-19 hit the world, it spread widely to almost every corner of the world and many people lost lives. As a measure to combat the spread of COVID-19 governments including the government of Uganda instituted several measures including lockdowns and closure of schools. While this has been lifted, many of the girls, especially teenagers, fell pregnant during school closures in Uganda.   According to UNFPA, over 10,000 girls got pregnant and many have given birth. According to MoES, teenage pregnancy is the major cause of school drop out rates for girls in Uganda.

C4Gee ED, Lwanga Musisi Abubakar giving his speech

The ED Centre for Education, Graduate Entrepreneurship and Empowerment, Mr. Lwanga Musisi Abubaker had this to say “Ladies and gentlemen, this dialogue focuses on how best such girls can be reintegrated.  It is our hope that this dialogue will form an advocacy agenda for enacting or review of the existing policies and environmental constraints to allow reintegrating of school dropout teenage pregnant girls and teen mother learners back into school during and after emergencies.”

Teen Mother Shares her Experience.

During the dialogue, a teenage mother shared what she is going through as ‘a child raising a child’. “I made a mistake which I regret   but I still desire a chance to stay in school without facing stigma, I passed through so many things when I got pregnant during the pandemic, so many people said so many things and I wanted to run away from home but my mum kept me strong and said things would get better, I had a safe delivery and I wasn’t operated. I feel bad that my friends were studying and I wasn’t.”

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of reported cases of teenage pregnancies and school dropout rates for girls, since the March 2020 school closures in Uganda. Teenage pregnancy (pregnancy in girls below the age of 19 years) remains a great social and educational challenge in Uganda in addition to the associated health challenges. Teenage pregnancy often leads to dropping out of school, hence loss of education with potential future employability and lowered economic productivity which in the long-run contributes to poverty.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics’ (UBOS) Uganda Demographic and Health Survey report, over 24% of teenagers were reported to have started child bearing. According to a study by Uganda’s ministry of education (MOES), 28% of teenage girls (n=609) who were sexually active while still at school, 80.1% (488) got pregnant. Of these, 97% dropped out of school because of the pregnancy. Thus, pregnancy is one of the main causes of girls dropping out of school. According to a UNFPA report on teenage pregnancy in Uganda during the first post Covid-19 lockdown, Central Uganda, particularly Buganda region had the highest reported cases with Wakiso district alone reporting more than 10,000 cases.

It should be emphasized that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption to education in Uganda. This has had a particularly devastating impact on the already dire situation of girls’ education, with many having limited access to distance learning during the school closures, and many others at risk of not returning to classroom once schools reopen. The pandemic and prolonged lockdown has also caused increase in gender-based violence, early marriages, early child bearing, psychosocial stress and mental health issues, which in turn negatively affects girls’ ability to access education and learning.

Although the government of Uganda has relentlessly adopted measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, some of the measures have exposed many girls of school-going age in to sex-perpetrators who have made them pregnant hence limiting their chances of continuing with their education. Much as the ministry of Education and sports issued revised guidelines for prevention and management of teenage pregnancies in school settings in Uganda, the ministry is yet to fully disseminate these guidelines to all the concerned stakeholders. This calls for a need to conduct a national conversation on prevention and management of teenage pregnancies in Ugandan schools.

Like it was mentioned above that the dialogue was under the theme “Her Education, Her Right”, it helped present an opportunity to seek opinions from various stakeholders on how best pregnant girls and teenage mothers can best be reintegrated back into school after COVID-19 School closures.