Local leaders and parents in Kasese District want the government to consider urgently putting up special facilities/units in schools to cater for pregnant and lactating learners.
They argue that allowing pregnant and breastfeeding learner’s to return to school when they reopen this month is most likely going to create a lot of inconveniences because schools lack conducive structures to handle such a group.
For example, they say they could be emergency cases that require isolation from other learners but schools do not have units where they can handle such cases. They also argue that without other conducive facilities like good bathrooms, many of the affected girls will still shun returning to school.
Richard Bomera, the Bulembia Division LC III Chairperson, says that whereas he welcomes the intention to keep all children in school, he insists that those who are pregnant and lactating need special places where they can attend to their children when the need arises. He says that pregnant and lactating girls are at a risk of being mocked by fellow learners, which might affect their attitude towards schooling.
Chance Kahindo, the Kasese municipality mayor, says that parents of the affected children are at crossroads because they to ensure they return to school and provide for their babies. He is worried that the overall objective of having the affected children continue with their education may not be achieved unless the government extends extra support including putting up clinics to handle any likely health emergencies.
Muhindi Eliphazi Bukombi, the Kasese LC V Chairperson, says that allowing child mothers and pregnant learners back to school is meant to give them an opportunity to complete their education. He, however, says there is urgent need to establish facilities at every school to cater for the lactating child mothers since the majority do not have the capacity and knowledge of storing breast milk.
Abdul Martine, the headteacher Nadir Preparatory School, says that they will comply with the government policy and as a school are ready to receive child mothers even as new learners. He, however, also wants the government to support learning institutions to put up special rooms to help young mothers to breastfeed and monitor their babies.
Deus Baluku, a parent in Kasese town welcomes the idea of giving the affected girls a second chance but expresses concern about the capacity of schools to handle them.
For example, Baluku says most of these children are poor and in that regard they have to carry their children if need arise even when they are in class, which would be an inconvenience to other learners. He also calls for the orientation of learners before classes resume.
Jolly Biira another parent is worried that not so many schools will afford to hire trained counsellors to counsel the girl as required by the ministry of education guidelines for retention or continuation of school and re-entry after delivery.
She says that many schools lack facilities like toilets and bathrooms, which would hinder many young mothers from enjoying or continuing with school life again.
George Mainja, the Kasese District Education Officers-DEO told URN that the department will ensure all schools have senior women or counselors to monitor the well-being and provide the necessary health and learning support to the affected girls.
Mainja also says they expects all girls to return to schools and any head teacher implicated found acting contrary will face disciplinary action.
A recent study by the UN population fund indicates that the country has been registering over 32,000 teenage pregnancies monthly since March 2020. The Ministry of Education has now drafted guidelines for the management of pregnant girls/mothers to help them stay in school.
According to the guidelines, school administrators are required to keep in touch with the pregnant girls to monitor their well-being and provide the necessary emotional, moral and spiritual support. The schools are expected to keep the records of whoever is responsible for the pregnancy for easy tracking when the need arises.