Layibi High school in Gulu City has created a special room for one of their students who returned to school with a breastfeeding baby. Located about three kilometres outside the city center, Layibi High school is one of the few secondary schools that have welcomed a breastfeeding student in senior six with her six-month-old baby.
This was in line with the government’s directive to school heads to prioritize the admission of pregnant and breastfeeding girls. Miriam Akot, the senior female teacher at the school, says that although they had counseled students that the school would be registering expectant students to those with babies, they found it ideal to provide a special room.
She says that the decision is aimed at ensuring the learner isn’t stigmatized by her fellow students who might find it unusual to see one of their own breastfeedings a baby in school.
Akot says the conducive environment provided for the student has enabled her to freely study. She says the student is allowed to breastfeed her baby during break time, lunchtime, and around the evening before joining the evening classes.
Akot says the government’s initiative of tasking schools to welcome pregnant and breastfeeding girls in schools will help to give such girls a second chance in life and a bright future.
The school headteacher, Michael Okidi Okech, says although the school hasn’t registered cases of their own students getting pregnant, the number of female learners in the school has dropped significantly this year. He says the school had 260 learners in 2020 but currently has only 201.
Okidi notes that whereas only one female student returned to school with a baby, about three weeks after schools reopened, he believes they may register more students and notes that they have adequately prepared to educate them.
The 22-year-old student, who requested not to be named in order to freely speak, says that she gave birth during the lockdown after getting pregnant while in senior five. She however says that she felt an urge to return to school to enable her to attain a better future after witnessing challenges uneducated young mothers are undergoing.
She says that the past three weeks have been challenging in terms of balancing time for the baby and paying attention in class, adding that she is now slowly adjusting to the new situation. In Pece Primary School in Pece –Laroo Division in Gulu City, two pupils returned to school with babies according to the authorities. The school also registered a significant drop in the number of girls from 420 in March 2020 to only 304 girls this term.
Grace Lanyero, the Deputy Headmistress of Pece Primary School, says that all the breastfeeding teen mothers who returned to school are in Primary Four. Lanyero says the young mothers are allowed during the break and lunchtime break to return home and breastfeed their babies before returning to the school since their homes are near.
It’s unclear how many pupils or students returned to school this term with pregnancies or with their breastfeeding babies in Gulu City. Statistics from the Health Department released early this month however give a worrying suggestion that a number of school-going girls could have delivered during the covid-19 lockdown between 2020 and 2021.
For instance, last year alone, Gulu city registered 1,486 teenage pregnancies while the district registered 1,090 cases. Proscovia Aber, the Gulu City Inspector of Schools, says that no student had returned to class while pregnant or with a baby during their monitoring visits in the first week when schools reopened.
She says they will conduct another round of monitoring in the coming week to ascertain statistics on the numbers of expectant teenage girls and mothers who have resumed studies.
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