Miriam Akot, the school’s head teacher, says that although they advised pupils that the school would enroll pregnant pupils to those with babies, they found it ideal to provide a special room.
Layibi High School in Gulu City has set up a special room for one of its students who returned to school with a breastfed baby. Located about three kilometers from the city center, Layibi high school is one of the few high schools to have welcomed a breastfeeding student in sixth grade with her six-month-old baby.
This was in line with the government’s directive to headteachers to prioritize the admission of pregnant and nursing girls. Miriam Akot, the school’s head teacher, says that although they advised pupils that the school would enroll pregnant pupils to those with babies, they found it ideal to provide a special room.
She says the decision is to ensure the learner is not stigmatized by her peers who might find it unusual to see one of their own breastfeeding a baby at school.
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Akot says the conducive environment provided to the student allowed her to study freely. She says the student is allowed to breastfeed her baby during breaks, lunch and in the evening before joining evening classes.
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Akot says the government’s initiative to task schools with welcoming pregnant and breastfeeding girls into schools will help give these girls a second chance at life and a bright future.
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The school principal, Michael Okidi Okech, said that although the school has not recorded any cases of students becoming pregnant, the number of female students in the school has dropped significantly this year. He says the school had 260 learners in 2020 but currently only has 201.
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Okidi notes that while only one student has returned to school with a baby, about three weeks after schools reopened, he thinks they could enroll more students and notes that they have prepared enough to educate them.
The 22-year-old student, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely, says she gave birth during lockdown after falling pregnant when she was in fifth grade. She says, however, that she felt the need to return to school to enable her to achieve a better future after witnessing the challenges faced by uneducated young mothers.
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She says the past three weeks have been difficult in terms of balancing baby time and paying attention in class, adding that she is now slowly adjusting to the new situation. According to authorities, at Pece Primary School in Pece-Laroo Division of Gulu town, two students returned to school with babies. The school has also seen a significant drop in the number of girls from 420 in March 2020 to just 304 girls this term.
Grace Lanyero, vice principal of Pece Elementary School, says all of the teenage breastfeeding mothers who have returned to school are in fourth grade. Lanyero says young mothers are allowed during break and lunch break to go home and breastfeed their babies before going back to school since their homes are close.
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It is not known how many pupils or students have returned to school this term with pregnancies or with their babies being breastfed in Gulu town. Ministry of Health statistics released earlier this month, however, give a worrying suggestion that a number of school girls may have given birth during the covid-19 lockdown between 2020 and 2021.
For example, last year alone, Gulu town recorded 1,486 teenage pregnancies while the district recorded 1,090 cases. Proscovia Aber, the Gulu town school inspector, said no student returned to class while pregnant or with a baby during his monitoring visits in the first week of reopening schools.
She says they will carry out another round of monitoring in the coming week to compile statistics on the number of teenage girls and pregnant mothers who have returned to school.