Teenage mothers: Figures indicate that 15% of births in the country occur to mothers below 20 years. Photo/File
In the past, a girl enrolling into school was by sheer luck. Owing to the gender roles divide, the girls place was in the house and care work her obligation.
The last decade has seen a rather changing trend. Gender parity has been achieved at the primary level of education which indicates that girls as many as boys start to school.
However, keeping the girl in school continues to be as challenging as it was to enroll them in the first place. A number of challenges stand in the way and this can be seen in the increasing cases of teenage pregnancies. The 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey(UDHS) put it at 25% up from 24% in the previous year.
Sanitary pads that has since become more of a political issue than every girls’ basic necessity continues to see many stay out of class for days every month.
Figures indicate that 15% of births in the country occur to mothers below 20 years of age compared to 12% of those aged 35 years and above. A 20-year-old is hardly through university in the formal training system.
The role of education is transforming the life of the girl child cannot be overemphasized. A compromised education especially at the formative stages leaves a lasting impact on the extent to which the child and in this case the girl can achieve their full potential.
It is therefore more than just taking the girl to school but creating an enabling environment for her to thrive is rather critical.
Research has also shown that the chances of an uneducated mother not supporting her children through school are rather high. This therefore creates a vicious cycle of illiteracy and its resultant effects.
Reproductive health advocate, Diana Tibesigwa argues that much as a number of policies and interventions have been put in place, there is need for a multidisciplinary response. A girl is in contact with different people at each stage of her life and if there is a deficiency at one stage, the entire cycle is compromised.
“The role of school health nurses should be expanded to provide information on pregnancy and its risks, contraceptive use, abortion and its complications, and early childbirth and its consequences.” She says adding that teenagers should be taught assertive interpersonal skills such as negotiating and refusal skills through programs that allow young people to practice these skills.
It is also important as Tibesigwa explains to have special programmes initiated by government through the various responsible departments to address ignorance concerning sexual matters and the challenges and risks associated with pregnancy and parenting by adolescents.
Working on the assumption that girls will somehow find out about their changing bodies is not only leaving behind trails of a lost childhood but also costs of managing the repercussions such as teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions, illiteracy and sexual transmitted diseases.
The International Day of the Girl Child that was celebrated on the 11th of October is but a reminder of the realities that the Ugandan girl comes face to face with on a daily basis. It is a caution that much as certain milestones have been achieved, it is but only a battle won and the war continues.