With the COVID 19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020, no one imagined then that many adolescent girls and boys would be affected, schools were closed for 2 years which disrupted learning and as a result many teenage girls got pregnant and others married. The United Nations Population Fund (2021) reported a total of 354,736 teenage pregnancies in 2020 and a total of 290,219 teenage pregnancies between January and September 2021 (source: UNFPA Uganda Report) With an estimated 15 million school children having not attended school between March 2020 and December 2021, its estimated that up to 30% of school children may not return to school (NPA, 2022) due to teenage pregnancy, child marriage and child labor.
Many of the girls who get pregnant did not go back to school after giving birth and yet those who went back to school are dropping out of school because of various reasons. As a result, the campaign launch between 20th and 22nd July 2022 in Kaabong, Amudat, Moroto and Abim districts were conducted to support re-entry of pregnant girls and child mothers return to school or other alternative pathways with funding support from UNICEF and Irish Aid.
This campaign feeds into the National campaign to address defilement, child marriage, teenage pregnancy and promoting positive parenting that was launched in December 2021 by the Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni, First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, also the champion for adolescent girls in Uganda, The Vice President, Her Excellence Major (RTD) Alupo Jessica, the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja. It is also aligned to the Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Teenage Pregnancy in the School setting that aims to promote re-enrollment of out of school adolescents including pregnant teenagers and child mothers back to school.
While launching the campaign in Kaabong District, the woman MP Kaabong,Tubo Christine Nakwang called upon parents to play an integral role in providing counselling support for their daughters and supporting them re-join school. In her remarks, the Hon Woman MP said, “we urge parents to be close to their children, counsel them about the significance of education including girls who have produced babies”.
“We’re proud of the Government’s efforts in allowing pregnant girls go back to school and now that they are allowing them in school, we pledge full support for this campaign and will get the message out very clearly. We want all children including those with babies to return to school and parents to prioritize their children’s learning. Children also need to play their part, by going back to school and taking education seriously, we don’t want to see a repeat of the mistakes they have made and have their future doomed”.
In Abim district, the deputy Resident District Commissioner, Ms. Fardosa Ahamed who was the Chief Guest while officiating the campaign , in her remarks said “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major challenges for the education sector, putting severe strain on students and their families. All children should therefore be encouraged to go back to school and feel safe when doing so. I therefore call on everybody, the directors, community, religious and cultural leaders, teachers, students and parents alike to take the necessary precautions to ensure re-entry of all adolescents including pregnant girls and those with babies and ensure their safety while at school”. The Deputy RDC also committed to taking the campaign to the grassroots by popularizing the “Go Back to School message” especially for the pregnant girls and child mothers who dropped out of school.
“The Peer-to-Peer go back to school campaign is a very good strategy towards ensuring all adolescents can go back to school and we need to embrace this initiative as a district,” said Lawot Anthony, the District Education Officer, Amudat District “While this strategy is a good one, we need collaboration across all district departments both political and technical including the community leaders and members towards ensuring all our adolescents can get back to school”. The DEO also said Amudat District Education Office is fully committed to walking with the peer advocates till the last mile in ensuring all out of school adolescents in the district go back to school”.
The campaign which will be spear-led by 350 peer advocates with support of 350 district and community leaders from 7 districts of Moroto, Napak, Abim, Kaabong, Amudat, Nabilatuk, and Nakapiripriit through in and out of school platforms such as community dialogues, local radios, home to home visits, out of school community clubs, churches, village meetings , school clubs, assemblies and PTA/SMC meetings and IEC materials such as posters, flyers, campaign booklets among others.
The campaign has been designed to reach community leaders, teachers, school governors, parents and caregivers, and children and young people including those with disability.