PLATFORM for the NEEDY (PLANE) has introduced peer clubs to keep pregnant girls and teenage mothers in school.
The clubs will constitute pregnant girls, teenage mothers and selected learners, and will be used to fight stigma against teenage pregnancies and sexual abuse, as well as encourage survivors of sexual abuse to remain at school and complete their studies.
Steven Waddell, the founder and executive director of PLANE, explains that the clubs will be activated in all the primary and secondary schools in Kabarole district and Fort Portal City.
“We shall start with the schools in the city and the sub counties that have experienced high cases of pregnancies in Kabarole district, like Mugusu, Kicwamba, Karangura and Busoro, and later we shall proceed to other sub counties,” he said. “We shall also extend the services to the neighboring districts of Bunyangabu and Ntoroko, but this will depend if we get a partner to support us.”
Waddell has asked the education department to task all headteachers to offer psycho-social support to pregnant girls and teenage mothers who will resume studies after two years of school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Kajumba Gorretti, PLANE’s education project officer, says the clubs will also include vulnerable categories and will be overseen by the school management committees (SMCs), Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), and senior male and female teachers and supervised by PLANE officials.
“The drive will not only target female learners but their male counterparts as well. We’re yet to document the exact number of pregnant and teenage mothers when the schools reopen,” Gorretti said.
Patrick Ruyonga of Kiyombya Seed Secondary School in Kiyombya sub-county Bunyangabu district has called for collective efforts in ensuring that pregnant girls and teenage mothers complete their studies.
Mrs. Elizabeth Kasenene, the Ag District Education Officer in Kabarole, said they want to rally parents and guardians to send their children back to school regardless of their statuses. “We shall join PLANE during their radio programs to rally parents to send the children to school despite the financial challenges parents are experiencing,” she said.
Uganda has had thousands of young girls getting pregnant, and others forced into early marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The schools have remained closed for close to two years, but the government announced that schools would reopen mid January.