Child rights activists have spoken out against the stance by the Bishop of Mukono Diocese, James William Ssebagala, not to allow pregnant learners into any of the Church of Uganda schools.
Lillian Ssengooba, the deputy national director at SOS Village Uganda, indicated that everyone has a right to attain his or her full potential.
“Pregnancy should not be the end of you attaining your education and we know education delays the next pregnancy. If she was your daughter what do you do? You ensure that she goes back to school,” Ssengooba said.
According to Ssengooba, the issue of teenage pregnancies is shared by all the stakeholders since they all have a role to play in averting the problem.
“These girls are still young, stop school and then do what? Where were you as a parent? Where were you as a religious leader? Where were you as a cultural leader? Where were you as a brother and a sister?”
The education ministry in its January 6, circular implored schools to allow female learners who have given birth even if they are still breastfeeding to report back to school, in line with the ministry’s revised guidelines for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in school settings in Uganda.
Responding to the ministry guidelines at his residence in Mukono town over the weekend, Bishop Ssebagala revealed that the diocesan synod had agreed to give a second chance only to the children who already gave birth and they are over with breastfeeding.
“We won’t recruit any breastfeeding children or those who are pregnant in any of the church founded schools in my diocese.
As the church, we not only focus on teaching English, Mathematics and Science but also norms, character and religion, for that matter, therefore, we cannot allow children who already messed up themselves to mix up with their colleagues who are still intact,” the bishop said.
However, the bishop’s stance according to the education ministry, was in brunt violation of the school reopening guidelines.
“Each and every child of school-going age should be helped to be in school and complete his or her education.
Those children are our wealth, they are our gold whenever we have an opportunity to skill them, we are adding value to their lives,” JC Muyingo, the state minister for higher education clarified.
Muyingo who is also a proprietor of schools in Mukono district pledged to pay a visit to the clergy whom he described as a friend in order to clarify issues with him.
He added; “Anybody who is trying to talk against the policy, he has not understood that there are accidents in this world and each and every one of us can get involved in the accident in one way or the other, but we should not condemn or kill him or her.”
Relatedly the Adventists bishops used the Central Uganda Conference (CUC) 2022 corporate prayer day held at Kireka Hill in Kampala on Sunday to plead for pregnant students to be allowed back to school.
“As schools reopen, there are still a lot of challenges. I appeal to teachers to treat pregnant students with care.
For the pregnant students, don’t feel dejected. Move on with your studies, the future is bright. God will see you through your struggle but determine to be good students at school and home,” Bishop Samuel Kajoba of CUC said.
According to gender ministry, teenage pregnancies in some communities were disturbingly at a record high of between 40-50%.
At a recent reproductive health dialogue hosted at the International University of East Africa in Kampala, Mondo Kyateka, the commissioner children affairs at the ministry, admitted that the latest trends of teenage pregnancies and deliveries emanating from COVID-19 lockdown were unpleasantly worrying.