The fate of returning to school for more than 3,200 girls remains at stake due to teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
The girls aged between 15 and 19 years were impregnated, eloped, or married off due to the nearly two years of the closure of all learning institutions following the outbreak of covid-19.
Statistics from the different health facilities in the Amuru District show that 3,200 teenage girls sought maternal health services at the different units within the COVID-19 lockdown. Some of them have reportedly given birth while others are still carrying their pregnancies.
Joyce Lanyero, the Amuru District Education Officer says that records obtained from the different health units show that 3,200 girls were impregnated during the COVID-19 lockdown period and they are uncertain if they will return to school.
These are part of the 41,163 registered learners from the 51 schools in the district. Lanyero says that before the outbreak of covid-19, the school was a safe place for young girls but following the closure, young girls became prey to sexual abusers.
The most affected sub-counties out of the seven include Pabbo and Lamogi. Lanyero adds that the district is ready for school reopening with 615 teachers expected to resume duties.
The education department has rolled out a campaign dubbed ‘’Go Back to School’’ which is geared towards ensuring that all school-going children return to school regardless of their conditions but it has no plans for pregnant and childbearing learners while at schools.
At Agwayugi Primary School in Lamogi Sub County, William Alex Latim, the School Headteacher reported that he has been notified that six of her pupils out of the 924 have been impregnated and married off.
In March this year, a 30-year-old man identified as Charles Ojok a resident of Nwoya district was arrested alongside seven others from Otwee Town Council for trying to marry off a primary six pupil of Oloyotong Primary School in Amuru district who is also below 18 years.
In the Acholi Sub-Region, more than 20,000 teenage girls were reportedly impregnated during the COVID-19 lockdown. These have been attributed to lack of parental care, poverty, and domestic violence.
Sixteen-year-old Made Atim, a Primary Six pupil at Koro Primary School in Gulu City. She is a mother to an eight-month-old boy after being sexually abused in June last year.
Atim has lost hope in formal education and now wants to enroll in vocational skills training. Kevin Wanjala, an advocate with Action Aid Uganda noted that teenage mothers should also be given a second chance for education.
The spate of teenage pregnancies and child marriages have however been widely condemned by the cultural, religious, and civil societies in the Acholi Sub Region.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda Godfrey Loum, Sheikh Musa Khalil the Acholi District Muslim Khadi, and Acholi Paramount Chief Onen David Acana II have all called for a unified fight against child abuses and upholding the rights of girls.
Eleven-year-old Peace Namake who is a primary five pupil of Agwayugi Primary School in Amuru district has also added her voice in advocating on the need for child protection and promoting girl child education.