The Gulu District Education Department has tasked all headteachers in Primary and Secondary schools to offer psycho-social support to pregnant girls and teenage mothers who will resume studies next week.
The directive issued during a meeting with all school Headteachers in Gulu City is aimed at addressing discrimination and stigma against pregnant girls and child mothers. It’s in line with the Ministry of Education’s revised guidelines for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in schools that direct all schools to prioritize the admission of pregnant and breastfeeding girls.
Gulu District Education Officer Caesar Akena says that a number of teachers were identified earlier and are currently undergoing a two–day training that started yesterday, Thursday at all Sub –County levels in the district. This training, which ends today, will give them the knowledge and skills to conduct sessions with the young girls as the schools reopen.
Akena says that the week-long exercise that starts on Monday will not only target the pregnant girls and the child mothers, but also the other learners as well as the classroom teachers. It is aimed at preparing the minds of everyone, to fight stigmatization against the girls.
Doreen Ayot, the Headmistress of St. Martin Primary School in Bungatira Sub–County in Gulu District says she has already been trained by the Education Ministry to train other Headteachers on the operations of schools under the new normal. Ayot says teachers in her school have undergone training and are ready to receive all learners by next week.
Santo Opiro, the Headteacher of Unifat Primary school in Gulu city says although they haven’t got a report about any of their continuing pupils who got pregnant or have given birth, they are already prepared. He says the school has set aside a special room for breastfeeding mothers and already trained all teachers on handling learners who will return to school beginning next week while pregnant or with a baby.
Joyce Laker, a Psychologist, and counsellor in Gulu City says the directive to offer psycho-social support to the teenage mothers and pregnant girls who will be returning to schools seeks to ensure that they study. She says schools need to offer time to the young girls to tell their stories on what happened adding that listening to the girl’s side of the stories without judgment will prevent stigma and enable them to cope up with the stress of being child mothers.
Laker also emphasized that there is a need for schools to provide a safe environment for young girls by sensitizing their fellow pupils or students to avoid name-calling.
Simon Wokorach, the Aswa County Member of Parliament appealed to stakeholders to rally all the children of school-going age to go back to school when the schools reopen next week.
Gulu District and Gulu City have had a rise in cases of teenage pregnancy in the last two years when the government shut down schools to contain the spread of coronavirus disease-COVID-19. A recent statistic from the District Health Department shows that a total of 1,486 teenage girls got pregnant in Gulu city, while a total of 1,090 teenage girls got pregnant in Gulu district in 2021 alone.