Cultural beliefs are forcing teenage girls out of school in Ntoroko district, which has caused a high rate of school drop outs.
It’s common among the Batuku and Bakonzo, the two major tribes in the district, to marry off girls at an early age between 13-16 years. Some of the girls are also denied education and forced to work as maids.
Last month, a report by the World Vision office in Ntoroko about girl-child education, indicated that the cultural beliefs were responsible for the high school drop outs. According to the report, the dropout rate in the district stands at 40%.
Girls dropping out of school are common in Karugutu, Rwebisengo and Kanara sub counties.
In some of the primary and secondary schools visited by Uganda Radio Network, there was a low attendance of girls.
At Karugutu Primary School in Karugutu town council, out of the 800 pupils, only 250 are girls.
Jackson Bwambale, the head master of the school, says that in the past one year, fifty girls aged between 12-16 years abandoned school and were married off by their parents. Bwambale also says that some of the pupils who perform poorly are not given another chance, but forced out of school by their parents and are given employment to work as maids.
According to Bwambale, the school administration, is powerless to address the matter and left it to the parents and the officials from the education department.
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At Rwebisengo Secondary School, seventeen girls in senior one and two dropped out of school in the past six months.
Aloysius Isingoma, the headmaster of the school says that the number is alarming and action needs to be taken by both parents and district authorities.
However Isingoma says that although culture plays a big role, the early marriages are also caused by extreme poverty that makes parents marry off their daughters in exchange for bride price.
He also says that in some areas, when a girl gets pregnant before marriage, she is seen as a disgrace to her family and society, and the only solution is for her to leave school and get married.
Moses Kamara, the district education officer says blames the local leaders for looking on as the dropout rates increase. According to Kamara, he has on several occasions proposed to the district council to pass a bylaw to curb early marriages, but nothing has been done about it.
Kamara says that he is sure the bylaw will work. He cites Bundibugyto district were cases of school dropouts has reduced because of the bylaw.