News / Africa

UN, Local Groups Urge Ugandan Girls to Stay in School

Grace Debroha, a 13-year-old orphan, writes the names of body parts on a chalkboard at St. Jude's Orphanage, outside Gulu, Uganda, June 2007 file photo.
Grace Debroha, a 13-year-old orphan, writes the names of body parts on a chalkboard at St. Jude's Orphanage, outside Gulu, Uganda, June 2007 file photo.
Andrew Green
Faced with forced early marriages, girls in Uganda drop out of school at a higher rate than boys.

Vicious circle

Stella Kaudha is determined to go to college.  The 17-year-old Kamuli resident wants to be an English teacher.  But first she will have to do something no woman in her family has done before: graduate from secondary school.

"I’m the only one studying in my family.  My elders, all of them got married because of money.  They are now out of school and they did not complete," she said.

Her mother did not go to school.  Her two older sisters, like half of the girls in Uganda’s education system, dropped out to get married.  Kaudha is only able to stay in school because her education is being paid for by the charity Plan International.

It is a common story in this poor eastern Ugandan town and across the country.  More than a quarter of girls in Uganda drop out before they even finish primary school, according to the United Nations.  The number is less than 20 percent for boys.

Mary Musigire, the senior woman teacher at Kamuli Progressive College, says this is because families do not value educating girls.  Instead of paying for an education, families with limited resources are eager to marry a girl off to ensure she is provided for.

"Even the parents, they have bad attitudes toward girls’ education.  So many of the parents don’t pay school fees for their children… They force girls to go for early marriage, while educating a boy child," she said.

Stopping early marriage is the focus of the United Nations’s first-ever International Day of the Girl Child.  Despite being illegal in Uganda, early marriages are common and limit a girl's access to education.  According to the U.N. Children’s Fund, Uganda has the 15th-highest rate of child marriage in the world.

Early pregnancy

Along with family pressure, pregnancy plays a role in forcing young girls out of school.  Evelyn Letiyo, who works in the gender division at the U.N. Population Fund in Uganda, says that once girls become pregnant, their families often force them to get married.

She says, in addition to ending their education, early pregnancy raises critical social and health issues.

"What it means for a girl, is her future is doomed," she said. "In terms of health, this is I think where there is huge concern, you find that girls, their bodies are not ready to have babies.  When they have babies, they are not mentally and emotionally ready to have these babies."

She says schools need to provide girls with a better understanding of the impact early pregnancy can have both on their health and their livelihoods.

That is what Raphael Kaiso is doing at Kamuli Girls School.  He runs the school’s Children’s Parliament.  The parliament is a unique setup where each grade elects representatives who meet regularly with staff members and the community to talk about their concerns.  The meetings cover a range of issues, from the right to education to reproductive health.

Kaiso says the parliament has been critical in changing community attitudes about keeping girls in school.

"Previously, girl children, they used to work in gardens, to stay at home to prepare for boys and not minding about the education," he said.  "Today things have changed… Now they came, all the stakeholders, on board and that’s why they are in position to articulate their rights the way they are doing it."

He says encouraging girls to defend themselves is the only way to keep them out of early marriages.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid