School dropout rates in late primary and early secondary school years stand in the way of many girls to acquire marketable skills and career formation for turning Uganda’s abundant human resources into human capita, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says.
UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Mary Otieno, says this makes it harder for Uganda to bolster livelihoods and stay on course for harnessing the demographic dividend and attainment of the country’s Vision 2040.
She notes that the presidential call for compulsory primary and secondary education is one way of stopping high school dropout rates.
“Education opens opportunities for girls, their families and communities out of poverty especially when girls acquire skills, have access to paid employment and can earn, save and invest in their future,” Dr Otieno says.
Adding: “When girls are able to access sexual reproductive health information at the appropriate age, stay in school for a minimum of 11 years, they are empowered to make decisions on when to marry, start childbirth and to chart the path for their own life. This will, therefore, ensure that no one is left behind.”
Dr Otieno highlights the need to accelerate the advancement of gender equality through access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, improved education, appropriate labour policies and equitable norms in the workplace and home that will in turn result in healthier, stronger economies and resilient societies.
She observes that despite the government laying strategies like the revised guidelines on the prevention and management of teenage pregnancies in school settings, a lot needs to be done especially on implementation.
Dr Fred Wabwire, the National Population Council Board Chairman, discloses that 64% of girls in Uganda are engaging in sex before 18 years of age while 34% are marrying before 18 years of age; translating into 1,000 teenage pregnancies average per day in Uganda.
He reveals that a total of 23,000 teenage girls were impregnated in Lango sub-region in one year in 2021, Oyam had the highest cases with 4,448; Lira registered 3,871 cases while Kole recorded 3,186.
Dokolo had 2,363 cases, Kwania registered 2,332; Alebtong had 2,190 and Amolatar registered 1,939 cases among others.
Dr Wabwire says poor access to contraceptives spiraled up teenage pregnancy in Lango sub-region that currently stands at 28% teenage pregnancy, quoting the Communication for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU 2023).
He adds that poverty, ignorance, negative peer pressure, parental negligence of parental roles, negative cultural practices and norms, marrying off young girls, unmet need for family planning which was at 40.8% in 2019 (health), low access to adolescent health friendly services and sexual, reproductive health services.
“It is worth noting that promotion of girl child education until completion, law enforcement against perpetrators of teenage pregnancy, sensitisation on negative cultural practices and the repercussions of teenage pregnancy, empowering both in and out of school adolescent girls and boys with age sensitive sexuality education and life skills rehabilitation for teenage victims, increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services and strengthening social protection policies and laws will reduce teenage pregnancy and increase school retention and completion for both girls and boys,” Dr Wabwire says.