Efforts by Kasese authorities to improve the education of girls have been frustrated by early marriages and unwanted pregnancies among school-going children, the district education department said.
“Pregnancy cases are high in our schools. The situation is not good, especially in secondary schools,” the district education officer, Mr George Mayinja, told Daily Monitor last week.
Mr Mayinja attributed the vice to superstitious and cultural practices among parents who do not believe and value girls education. According to Mr Mayinja, parents also contribute to this problem as they fail to provide their children with basic needs such as food, shelter and school fees. “Girls are easily lured by rich men for survival,” he said. The district chairman, Lt. Col. Dura Mawa Muhindo, said early marriages are part of Bakonzo culture, with girls and boys as young as nine years taken for nurturing and some would eventually get tempted to get married.
The district vice chairperson, Ms Naome Mbambu, said the district has already passed an ordinance about child protection with the help of Save the Children Uganda, an NGO.
Rwenziruru Kingdom Health Minister Enock Muhindo Rwenzururu said early marriages are a serious issue because it is embedded in the Bakonzo culture, where women are still regarded as a form of reward. Mr Herizon Masereka, a head teacher at Maliba Secondary School, said his school had more than 40 girls who declared themselves young mothers.
Ms Janet Mujungu, 19, a student at Maliba SS said she decided to get married after her mother died. “My father re-married and my stepmother never gave us food. I was forced to get a boyfriend who unfortunately impregnated me and my father chased me away from home” she said.
She said she has since rented a house where her relatives support her to look after her child and pay her school fees.
District authorities said in 2009, seven girls sat for their PLE exams with babies.
In a research carried out by Women International Cross Cultural Exchange, a women’s organisation based in Geneva, last month in Munkunyu, Karambi, Maliba, Mpondwe-lhubiriha town council and Lake Katwe sub-counties, Munkunyu and Maliba were found with the highest number of young mothers numbering more than 400.
Save the Children Uganda has come up with the Accelerated Learning Programme to empower school drop-outs with necessary vocational skills.