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Stigma Affecting Reentry of Teenage Mothers in Schools

Although the National Adolescent Health Policy indicates that pregnant adolescent girls should be readmitted to school after they have delivered, the Education Policy is silent about it.

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The number of teenage mothers returning to schools in Ntoroko and Kabarole districts has reduced, according to a new report compiled by the education and community development departments in both districts.

The report indicates that the number has reduced from 65 to 25 percent in the past one year. It however points out stigma as one of the reasons affecting the re-enrollment of teenage mothers in schools.

Previously, the policy in government was that pregnant girls should be expelled from school.  However, this was relaxed in 2009 with a directive allowing those in candidate classes to sit their final examinations. However, although the National Adolescent Health Policy indicates that pregnant adolescent girls should be readmitted to school after they have delivered, the Education Policy is silent about it.

As a result, pregnant adolescents are still subjected to expulsion and suspension as a disciplinary measure, a practice that denies them an opportunity to complete the education cycle. Often, girls withdraw from school once they establish that they were pregnant, in order to avoid shame among their peers.

Vincent Ainebyoona, the Kabarole district acting Community Development Officer says that they have received reports of some teenage mothers who want to return to school, but are reluctant due to stigma. Ainebyoona says the ministries of Education, Health, Gender, Labour and Social Development should put in place strategies which will enable teenage mothers to resume school.

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Ntoroko District Senior Community Development Officer Moses Mujuni says victimization by teachers and fellow pupils has deterred many girls from returning to school after childbirth.  Mujuni explains that teenage mothers who want to return to school should be supported by their parents and school administration so that they are able to complete their studies. 

Margaret Katusabe, the head teacher of Karugutu Primary School, Ntoroko district admits some teenage mothers are being victimized. She explains that last year three teachers were reprimanded for ridiculing the girls, which left them feeling rejected.

Katusabe says that although she encourages teenage mothers to be re-enrolled in schools, the causes of early marriages and pregnancy should also be addressed. She adds that teenage mothers can experience many risks that could endanger their lives and that of the children.

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According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) about 10 percent of Ugandan girls aged between 15 and 19 drop out school each year due to early pregnancies.

The Population Secretariat indicates that of the 1.2 million pregnancies recorded in Uganda annually, 25 per cent of these are teenage pregnancies.

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