The future of the girl child in both primary and secondary schools in Ntoroko district, Western Uganda hangs in balance as cases of sexual violence and teenage marriage are reportedly on the rise.
An 11- year-old girl in primary five at Ntoroko primary school was defiled by a perpetrator at night at her home village in Ntoroko North on 17 June, 2018.
The perpetrator was nabbed after the victim’s parents reported the case at Karugutu police station on 21st June and he was later remanded at Katojo government prison in Kabarole district on 6th July, 2018.
“As you can observe, I feel great pain when I’m moving. I also fear to go to school and I feel shy in the presence of the public. I need help to be taken to hospital for treatment,” She narrated in an interview at Ntoroko district headquarters.
As if this is not the only sexual violence case at Ntoroko primary school, another girl in primary four on Friday 20th July, 2018 was abducted by unknown people for two days.
She was however recovered after her mother reported the case at the police.
The girl is still studying at Ntoroko primary school but not attending class regularly like before. Unfortunately, since July 30 ,2018 she had not been taken to any health facility for examination by her parents who claimed that they lacked transport.
The school head teacher Ntoroko primary school Ms Margaret Ahurra said, “Many of our girls when they reach the upper classes (P.5,6&P7) get married off by their parents while others drop out of the school and disappear for child labour”.
“Just in two months, we’ve had two cases of sexual violence on our girls. At this school, sexual violence has become a big challenge and we are wondering what to do? Most of our girls are disappearing and this is affecting their education career. There is need for intensifying awareness campaigns for the people to understand the importance of education and the rights of the girl child,” Ms Ahurra observed.
She narrated that as school administrators, they always not in the know about the where abouts of the disappearing pupils. In the academic year 2017 a total of 795 pupils was enrolled at the beginning of the first term but only 673 completed their term and the majority of drop outs were girls.
At Kibuuku primary school the situation isn’t far different. According to Ms Seith Katusabe the school head teacher, the administrators received the complaints from a girl in form seven that her parents had been holding meetings with Aunt to marry her off before completing primary seven.
At Itojo primary school for the last three years, school dropout has been manifested as most students enrolled don’t complete the year.
In 2015, a total of 415 students were enrolled for the first term but only 378 completed third term. In 2016, students dropped from 414 to 380 while in 2017, the number dropped from 485 to 472.
The Itojo primary school head teacher Ms Rose Birungi attributes the rampant school drop out of the pupils to the early pregnancy and early marriage where parents marry off their daughters as early as 13years.
She said in 2016 a primary seven girl who had registered to sit for primary leaving examination dropped out of school due to early marriage where parents connive with the perpetrator.
“I reported the case at police but when we went to court of Karugutu, the parents hide their daughter. The case lacked evidence and the suspect was released and the girl ended missing her final exams,” Ms Rose Birungi said.
She said the high number of school dropout has affected the school performance saying that since 2015 they have had only three students coming in division one.
Ms Bira Birungi aged 20, hailing from Ntoroko North narrates her experience that in 2013, she was forced to drop out of school in primary four after her parents connived with the man to marry her off.
“Am now with three children but am the one looking after them because the father abandoned me alone at home and disappeared when he went for fishing at Kanara landing site. I’m told he got married to another woman. Am suffering with no money. Ms Bira Birungi said while shading tears in an interview at Kanara landing site recently.
The district child and family protection officer, Ms Julie Logose, revealed that in 2016 police registered 50 defilement cases.
The Ntoroko District Police Commander Comments
Ms Logose said in an interview that last year they recorded 28 cases of defilement and 16 of child desertion.
“Children rights include basic needs but to my surprise I see some people here violating them. I strongly condemn that and I think if we collaborate with members of the community, we can put this to an end,” she said.
She added: “Few cases of child marriage are reported to my office. The problem is that parents connive with perpetrators and get money from them but now we are trying to bring them on board.”
Education Department Talks:
The Ntoroko Senior Education Officer Ms Moreen Kusemererwa said when girls reach in the upper classes they drop out and go for marriage saying it is still a challenge for the district.
Kusemererwa said the enrollment of girls in primary one up to primary three are many compared to those who completed primary seven.
“Some of the students in Ntoroko district walk long distances from Kibuuku town council to Karugutu town council or Rwebisengo town council to access secondary education. This situation has made many dropout while others are abducted on their way to school. Our chief administrative officer has presented a concept paper to Ministry of Education seeking for support and we hope for a positive response,” Ms Moreen Kusemererwa said.
The inspector of schools in charge of special needs Ntoroko district Mr Paul Bwambale said the sexual violence among the girls is rampant and has greatly affected the education of the girl child as they fail to complete primary level.
On July 27 2018, girls in both primary and secondary from Ntoroko district petitioned the district leadership demanding the immediate intervention to address the rampant cases of sexual violence in the schools.
The petition that was handed over to Ntoroko Resident District Commissioner Mr Wilson Isigoma reads in part,” Most girls at the age of 11 and 16 are forced to drop out from school and get married without their consent. We are demanding the district leaders to allocate adequate funds and enforce the implementation of the existing laws including children’s Act, domestic Act, education Act, orphan and vulnerable children’s policy”.
Ray of Hope
Ntoroko district is now welcoming partnership with some non-governmental organizations in the fight violence against children in and around school.
Ntoroko District Chairperson Timothy Kyamanywa said the district is in great need of partners in the fight against violence because as local government we don’t have money to reach out the schools and rural areas.
“we are however very happy to see that organizations like Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is helping to address the challenges in implementing program called Violence Against Children in and around Schools (VACIS),”
The District Chairperson said, “We are also grateful to PLATFORM for the NEEDY (PLANE) an NGO for her advocacy radio programs on Voice of Tooro FM where they create awareness on Violence Against Children and Domestic Violence in Families. Atleast a good number of our people have been transformed and sanity will prevail though its still a big challenge”.
The Advocacy and Communication Officer at Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda Chapter. David Omoding said the program ensures that violence against children is reduced to zero especially on girl child but are unable to reach all the schools and rural sub counties.
The Violence against Children in and around Schools (VACIS) program is supporting 10 schools in Ntoroko district – 8 Primary and 2 Secondary Schools.
Survey On Violence Against Children:
According to a 2016 baseline survey on violence against children in Ntoroko, Kasese and Bundibugyo by Forum for African Women Educationalist, 81 per cent of school children in the districts have had their rights violated.
The survey also indicates that 61 per cent of students are sexually abused in schools in toilets, classrooms, staffroom and teachers houses. And that 33 per cent male and 34 per cent females have had exposure to sexual violence in schools.
Ntoroko Education Key Issues
The District has 37 government aided primary schools and 3 government aided secondary schools.
According to government policy, every parish should have a primary school and every sub county a secondary school.
Out of 48 parishes in the district, 15 have no single primary school and out 10 lower local governments seven of them have secondary school.
The District also has only 3 government secondary schools and 2 Licensed Private secondary schools.
The sub counties with no government aided secondary school include Butungama, Bweramule, Kanara, Karugutu, Nombe Rwebisengo and Kibuuku Town Council.
The district is supposed to have 335 primary teachers but only 300 are available while in secondary schools the staffing level is supposed to be 108 but only 52 are available.
By July 2018, the district had 6,642 male students and 6,427 females in primary government aided schools while in private primary schools, 3,050 are female and 3,320 males.
In secondary schools, the three-government aided have 725 boys and 763 girls while the private secondary schools 204 are boys and 203 are girls.
Since 2014 to date, out of 3,700 students that sat for Primary Leaving Examinations, only 205 came in division one, 2192 in division two, 746 in division three, 351 in division four while 206 in division U.
Ntoroko District is comprised of six Sub Counties of Karugutu, Rwebisengo, Kanara, Nombe, Bwerangule and Butungama and three town councils of Karugutu, Kanara and Rwebisengo.
It was curved from Bundibugyo district and became operational on July 1, 2010.
Majority of the people in the district are pastoralists while others carry out fishing at the landing site of Kanara on Lake Albert.
The District is bordered by the DR Congo to the west and north, Hoima district to the north-east, Kibaale to the east, Kabarole to the south, and Bundibugyo in the southwest