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Adolescent mothers in Uganda: Battling adversity to pursue education

female students in a Ugandan school   -  
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In Uganda, the prevalence of teenage pregnancy stands at a staggering 25 %, ranking among the highest rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these pregnancies occur among girls who should be attending school but often face obstacles in re-enrolling even when policy permits.

Consider the story of a 17-year-old girl living in the Bidi Bidi settlement in Northern Uganda. Despite her young age, she juggles her education with the responsibilities of being a new mother. Taking breaks during class to breastfeed her baby, she has lost almost a year's worth of schooling. However, with the support of her school and family, she's determined to continue her education.

Her school accommodates her needs, allowing her to attend classes while also attending to her baby. This personalized attention has enabled her to prepare for her final year Primary 7 exams this year. Her family, particularly her mother, plays a crucial role in supporting her education by taking care of the baby while she's in school.

Unfortunately, teenage pregnancy is rampant in Uganda, especially in impoverished areas like the North where many refugee communities reside. Experts attribute this trend to a lack of parental care, inadequate education, and insufficient preventative measures.

Vivian Kityo, Director of Wakisa Ministries Pregnancy Center, emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in addressing teenage pregnancy. She notes that schools cannot bear the sole responsibility of caring for children; parents must actively engage in their children's lives.

Culturally, fathers are expected to take responsibility for their children, but without legal enforcement, the burden often falls on young mothers and their families. While government policy allows pregnant girls to attend school, a significant percentage opt out due to various factors, including early marriages forced by parents.

Returning to school poses challenges for teenage mothers. Educators express concerns about interruptions during lessons as mothers must attend to their babies' needs. Additionally, teenage mothers face ridicule and discrimination from peers, contributing to high dropout rates.

Despite the challenges and stigma, some teenage mothers remain resilient. Despite being mocked by classmates, she proudly embraces motherhood while pursuing her education.

Efforts to address teenage pregnancy in Uganda include proposals for contraceptive care and campaigns promoting abstinence and sex education in schools. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains uncertain as teenage pregnancy rates persist.

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