New government directives in Uganda say that all schools must provide a dedicated space for teenage mothers and pregnant students who wish to return to school. More than 650,000 Ugandan girls gave birth during the time schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report produced by UN Population Fund Research, during the 2021 lockdown, more than 32,000 teenage pregnancies were registered on average per month in Uganda. The data includes underage marriages, which are prohibited by law, as well as rape victims.
Face-to-face education restarted in the country on January 10, but despite the government’s encouragement, some students who became mothers during the two-year hiatus are refusing to return.
When all schools reopened, President Yoweri Museveni ordered that schools designate a special room for teen mothers. He said the government encourages adolescent mothers to pursue their education.
Reports from across the country say many schools face a similar predicament. Children in rural areas are the most affected because, unlike in cities, they can freely travel from one location to another.
The minister of state for higher education, Crystom Muyingo, said in an interview with local media: “There is a need to give such girls a second chance. The fact that they got pregnant does not mean that they stop going to school.”