Activists under the National Youth Advocacy Platform(NYAP) have the current surge in teenage pregnancies around the country to the continued closure of schools by government as one of the measures to control the spread of the virus.
Addressing journalists on Sunday, NYAP chairperson, Crispin Mutehimbwa Kakuba said whereas there were teenage pregnancies even when schools were open, the matter was exacerbated by the continued closure.
“The Covid pandemic and the resultant closure of schools has resulted into the girl child especially in rural and peri-urban communities engaging in uninformed sexual conduct. The closure of schools as a measure to get rid of the spread of Covid exposed the children to people with bad intentions to take advantage,” Mutehimbwa said.
According to Peter Kato from Kawaala Teenage Centre, whereas schools were safe places to keep children away from danger, at home, many of the parents lack skills to effectively talk to them on how to prevent pregnancies.
“Schools were safety networks to protect children from all forms of dangers including pregnancies but when the lockdown set in, the young people had a lot of redundant time at home well as many parents lack communication skills to talk to them,” Kato said.
“It is the reason many of the children are pregnant not to strangers but people known to them a situation which is worrying.”
The activists said the increased teenage pregnancies have been exacerbated by the many unattended to children during online lessons where many end up using the internet to search for pornography and other sex related materials.
“During online homeschooling, many children end up trying to put into practice what they have learned on the internet. Since the parents have no time to check what their children are doing, many end up engaging in sex this results into teenage pregnancies.”
Call for action
The activists noted that government ought to help come up with interventions that would help deal with the situation.
“Government should promote urban farming and other activities so as to make children busy during this lockdown but should also invest more in ICT skilling to encourage young learners to learn from home,” said Diana Nannono, the NYAP female representative.
The activists also asked government to expedite interventions to ensure quick reopening of schools so that children return for studies as one of the ways to protect them from redundancy at home.
“Government should effectively enforce the implementation of laws against defilement, child marriage and other forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation as well as engaging in sensitization of parents on their roles on the upbringing of children,”Nannono said.
“Adequate resources should be provided to police, local council and probation officers to enable them perform their roles in protecting girls against teenage pregnancies and early marriage.”
According from the National Youth Advocacy Platform, girls who are pregnant should not be stopped from studies after schools reopen but rather supported in all ways to ensure they safely give birth.
The activists noted that parents to have a role to play to ensure the current problem at hand is dealt with.
“Parents ought to use their experiences to teach their children about the problems of early sex and teenage pregnancy. This will go a long way in ensuring children avoid early sex,” said Evelyn Zalwango, the senior program officer in charge of health for the Community Integrated Development Initiatives.