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18 March 2024 - News

Teenage Mother Overcomes Adversity, Excels in Education

By: Enid Nabumati, Content & Communications Officer 

In a testament to resilience and determination, *Jane (name changed), a 19-year-old student from Moroto District, Uganda, has defied the odds and achieved academic success despite facing numerous challenges.

At just 19 years old, she has already faced more trials than many encounter in a lifetime. Yet, her spirit remains unbroken, fuelled by a fierce determination to carve out a better future for herself and her daughter, Stephanie.

*Jane shared her inspiring journey during the International Women’s Day celebrations on March 7th, 2024, captivating the audience with her story of overcoming adversity to pursue her education.

At the age of six, *Jane embarked on her educational journey under the guidance of her grandmother, driven by a thirst for knowledge. Following her grandmother's passing when she was just 12, *Jane was forced to return home to her single mother, who compelled her to work in a stone quarry to support the family.

“I was always supposed to take something home for the family, I would attend class up to 10 AM (break time), and then rush to the quarrying site to work. Whenever I failed to take something back home, my mother would tell my brothers to beat me up as punishment. On some days when I did not make any money, I never went back home for fear of being beaten,” she says.

However, *Jane was determined to continue her education, despite facing punishment from her family for failing to contribute financially.

Tragedy struck her gain, at the age of 15 when she was forced into marriage by her brothers, leading to a cycle of abuse and hardship.

“Without my knowledge, my brothers set me up – they got cows from a man and forced me to get married to him. When I tried to resist, they beat me up, so I submitted. I was just 15.”

Despite enduring a miscarriage at 16 and conceiving again at 17, she remained resilient eventually giving birth to her daughter, Stephanie.

“Upon conceiving the second time, my husband abandoned me and ordered me to return home and have my family reimburse his cows. The cows were not there anymore.”

“While home, my mother would tell me to fend for the family despite my condition and this put me under a lot of stress. I was forced to leave home and go to my maternal aunt who at least treated me better and would offer me helpful advice. She even involved me in her brewing
business and gave me 2,000 shillings daily to save until the time of delivery,” she recalls.

Instead of giving up on her dreams, she resolved to continue her education for the betterment of herself and her child. After her daughter made a year in 2023, *Jane, still under the care of her aunt, returned to school with her child and was allowed to join P.5. She was later promoted to P7 because of her brilliance.

Baby Corner

In 2023 Save the Children Uganda established Baby Corners in local schools through the Integrated Education Project for Karamoja (IEPK). The corners provided teenage mothers like Clementina with the vital support needed to balance childcare and education.

These Baby Corners, located in seven out of ten supported schools, provide a safe space for teenage mothers to leave their children while they attend classes, equipped with play materials and caregivers funded through monthly stipends.

“I am so grateful to Save the Children for helping me in school by not only supplying my school with items scholastic materials, sanitary pads, and food items but also helping teenage mothers with children through Baby Corners,” she said

“Before this, food that we received from the World Food Programme (WFP) only catered for students; but with Save the Children’s intervention, our children in baby corners are fed,”

Despite facing immense challenges, *Jane excelled academically, emerging as the best-performing female student in her class in the 2023 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) with 19 aggregates.

Her remarkable achievement caught the attention of the Straight Talk Foundation, leading to her selection for a scholarship, enabling her to enroll fully at Moroto High School.

*Jane reported to senior one on 19th February 2024 and Straight Talk Foundation has catered to all her scholastic needs including books, pens, soap, and sanitary pads among others. Her daughter, now one-and-a-half years old, is in the care of her aunt.

She reflects on her remarkable journey and offers a message of encouragement to her fellow teenage mothers: "Keep pushing forward, despite the challenges you may face. Your dreams are within reach, and with perseverance, anything is possible."

She expressed her gratitude to Save the Children for their invaluable support, providing essential scholastic materials and establishing Baby Corners that have significantly aided teenage mothers in continuing their education.

The project has continued with routine monitoring visits and facilitating caregivers with monthly stipends of UGX 55,000/= and parents encouraged to make local materials to enrich play at baby corners.

Daniel Manang, the IEPK MEAL Officer, emphasized the positive impact of Baby Corners, stating that they have relieved the stress of returnee teenage mothers, leading to improved enrolment and retention rates.

“At baseline is 2022, we had 32 teenage mothers enrolled across the 10 schools, but after the inception and community entry meetings and engagements, we realized an increase to 124 teenage mothers across the schools,” he says.