The undesirable effects of the lockdown has been seen to be more drastic than the possible effects of infection from COVID-19 especially in Lango sub region, seen to be recovering from the effects of the two decade LRA led insurgency.
As a result of the lock-down, several female juveniles majority of whom are students have been impregnated, their tormentors are at large, their future is at stake, and permanent solution to their untold suffering remains a nightmare to parents, humanitarian agencies and government.
Dr. Jackson Chekweko, the Executive Director Reproductive Health Uganda laments over the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the region which he says stands at 28 percent. “This means in every 3 children, one is either a mother or is pregnant yet these girls are the future of the country,” he said.
Robina Acham, a 20-year-old S4 student of Lira Town College in Lira City is a new mother. She gave birth three months ago, a few weeks before she could start her Uganda Certificate Examinations – UCE.
Despite her situation, Acham is doing her national examinations. She believes education is the key to her future and says despite all odds she will endeavor to complete her examinations.
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”My mum takes care of the baby, and she sent me back to school because she knows I can make it in the future. And my son, he’s very funny. He’s a gift” says Acham.
Meanwhile, another teenage mother is 21-year-old Jackline Adero who gave birth just eight days before she could start her Uganda Certificate Examinations.
Adero who sat her S4 examinations from Lira Town College says she was motivated by the support her parents and teachers alike accorded her.
For Adero education is the key to success.
“If you are not educated, it is very hard for you to prosper. Other girls who have had babies need to come back to school, and just ignore anyone who says something, and put their focus on their education. Parents should support them, and teachers shouldn’t ignore them.” she added.
For 18-year-old Fiona Acen, she got pregnant while in Senior Two. Acen who delivered in September last year, resolved not to continue with her formal education.
She has opted to enroll in tailoring and garment-cutting course, thanks to Trust Agirl Africa – TAGA, a community Based Organization operating in Adyel Division, Lira City West Division that came in handy and sponsored her.
Acen who had hoped to become an engineer had to adjust her life to the new normal.
Statistics obtained from Uganda Police indicate that over 21,000 cases of violence against children were registered over a period of five months between March and July 2020. Many of these children are reportedly pregnant.
While the government has a policy that allows pregnant learners to continue with their studies after delivering, in the past, schools have been quick to chase learners who are discovered to be pregnant.
Now policymakers say that schools must allow finalists to continue learning even if they are expecting.
Cleophas Mugenyi, the commissioner for basic education at the ministry of education says the girls need to be given a chance to continue with school.
”We have all been in unprecedented times and we need to take that into account,” he said.
Many factors have been blamed for the teenage pregnancy, defilement and other sexual related vices.
Innocent Abongo , the Apac District Probation Officer attributed to redundancy of children at home due to the COVID 19 lock down which he says has exposed children to different kind of sexual abuses.
A total of 1, 936 teenage pregnancy cases have been registered in Apac in the past 8 months, according to Abongo.
He has blamed some local council authorities in some areas for mediating sexual violence cases, part of the reason for the high number.
The Lira District Community Development Officer Christine Anono wants the school authorities to engage learners in counseling meetings to avoid stigmatization of the pregnant girls in school.
Sophia Rose Acen is the head teacher of Lira Town College, a prominent school in Lango. Acen says it is important that school authorities prioritize young vulnerable girls despite their situations, just for the betterment of their future.
Despite their situation, these young girls may need not to lose hope to lead a successful live after Plan International Uganda under their project of Smart Up Factories initiated a training in various vocational skills for these category of vulnerable youths.
Brian Ongom, the Project Officer for Lira Branch says the program targets the youth between 17 to 27 years of age.
He says they will be trained in computer skills, website designs, entrepreneurship skills, internet and photography.
He says the program that takes a duration of four months and accompanied with a business capital given to the students who has good enterprising business plans.
Commenting on the state of reproductive health in Lango sub region,Dr Edmond Acheka, Assistant District Health Officer, Lira says achieving universal access to Sexual and reproductive health is critical for Uganda to achieve middle income status.
He says Uganda is still losing many mothers at child birth and this unacceptable. He also decried the high rates of defilement, child marriage and child neglect in the region and appealed for the strengthening of implementation of the laws on domestic and gender based violence and how to include the local council structures more.