Mature before 18: Kamuli grapples with teenage pregnancies (Video)

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Kamuli district, located in eastern Uganda has attracted my attention.

Statistics from the 2018 District Annual Deliveries report are worrying. 7,070 teenagers below the age of 18 are mothers. Think about it.

The district alone contributes 25% of the national figures for teenage pregnancies.

In order to get to the bottom of this social evil, I track down a young mother, who had just given birth a month ago.

Namigeya Phiona is 16 years old. She was impregnated at 15 and gave birth to triplets.

This should have been a bundle of joy, but to Namigeya, it is a journey she was never prepared for.

She has had to learn many things about being a mother, from breast-feeding three babies, spending sleepless nights to facing poverty.

Her story starts with a friendship experience at school while in primary six.

The friend ship grew into a love story that was peppered with intimacy.

Soon she got pregnant, giving birth to triplets at Rubaga hospital in Kamuli district. However her father couldn’t take her in any more.

She currently stays here with her in laws but with no support from the father of the children.

Life for this young mother has since changed. Education is no longer her priority.

Taking care of her triplets is a full time job.

For now, she has to depend on her in-laws for support. Her load however seems too heavy.

Byte Sometimes she is helpless. Unable to provide for Namigeya and her three babies, she thinks of the worst Byte – Sometimes I feel like struggling one of them Many times she blames Namigeya for getting intimate with her son.

Right next to Namigeya’s home is the residence of Bagala Mary, another 15 year old teenager, now three months pregnant. She dropped out of school having conceived while in senior one.

Her boyfriend has also since gone missing.

She faults parents for not speaking to their children about sexual reproductive health.

According to her, schools too have not played their role.

So what has her mother got to say?

She however says, many of the girls in the villages are easily taken away. Byte These two case studies are just a drop in the ocean.

My next stop is at Bugulumbya health center 3. It is antenatal day at the maternity ward and there are visibly teenagers who have come to seek for services.

According to official records, for the financial year 2018/2019, this health centre has registered 191 teenage pregnancies.

They form part of the 2412 cases of teenage pregnancies, which were registered in Kamuli district.

Munyete Abdullah is the health assistant in charge of this facility.

Abdallah and his team have gone out to several schools to talk about these issues but have been greatly challenged.

Speaking of schools, I visit Nawandyo church of Uganda primary school, one of those that have registered school dropouts in the past.

Here, the talking compounds walls are screaming abstinence, stay a virgin and stay safe…But are the children listening?

Ibanga Henry Samuel is the head teacher for the school.

Ibanga, been in the classroom for over 10 years. He feels that government has not done enough to provide policies and frame work to guide and train teachers on matters of sexual reproductive health.

He says teachers have a moral responsibility to correct children caught on the wrong side of the law.

Recently, government launched the sexuality education framework but halted its implementation following public outrage.

Ibanga has no idea about the framework.

Brian Wafire, a programs officer with HEEPS Uganda has been working with young people in this sub county, visiting schools to talk about sexual reproductive health.

Wafire faults government for not establishing a legal frame work to support access to information on sexual reproductive health in schools.

So I decide to look into the policy and legal frame work surrounding sexual and reproductive health in schools.

While there is a draft that has existed for 18 years, it’s never been tabled on the floor of parliament.

Without a policy in place, the Ministry of Education developed and passed the National sexuality education framework in March 2018 to guide on what should be taught in school.

However, its implementation was halted after facing resistance from several stakeholders.

Moses Mulumba is the executive director of the Centre for Health Human Rights and Development, an organisation that has been calling for legal reforms in the access to sexual and reproductive health information in schools.

Moses Mulumba

Mulumba says legislators need to weigh in on the delay to pass the health policy.

Mulumba is warning that if this is not addressed, Uganda could get into an abyss that it may fail to get out of.

Conversations to stop teenage pregnancy in Uganda may take more than the policies but focus the realities that young people are having sex.

This also takes us back to debate whether young people should be given access to contraceptives as a measure to deal with the high teenage pregnancy levels in Uganda.

As for Namigeya Phiona and Mary Bagala, this is a little too late.

They have to deal with the fact that they are now mature before 18. Could we have done better? Can we save more girls from teenage pregnancies?

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