Alarming school drop out of girls in Amuru district

Amuru district  is  located in Northern Uganda  and it is 2851.65squar kilometer long, with 13 sub counties and 203 villages.  Its estimated population 186,696 (2014 national and housing census  report)

A newly construct  five stance modern latrine with a wash room to facilitate girls bathing and changing of their sanitary towels.

 The district has 51 government aided primary schools only . Important to note is that  in the lower section of primary education  there are more girls than boys especially between the ages of   5 to 13 years however as they progress  the ratio of drop out  between girls and boys  puts girls at a higher ratio.

Various surveys, reports  and research studies  by Government and other partners  demonstrate a  clear trend which suggests that high numbers of girls registered in lower Primary drop out before  their primary leaving examinations  is over 60%, in the same breath,  90% of schools within the district do not have any changing  rooms  that girls can access and use to freshen up during menstruation, forcing majority of them to  drop out of school and many of those  end up being married off by men fueling and contributing to the  rising cases of child marriage and defilement in the district.

This critical  gap of no proper sanitation facilities as recommended by government   is among one of the contributing factors   that is forcing girls out of  school. other contributing factor  are, the unbearable pain  during the  cycle that is made worse for t girls that do not have any sexual reproductive health information that could  help them  cope  and manage the periodal pain, lack of  proper sanitary pads  thus making staying in school harder with uncomfortable padding products which some times contribute to ill health, lack of constant access to clean water  to ensure they can freshen up during the cycle and misconception within the community that once a girl starts menstruation  they are ready for marriage and child bearing.

Based on all the above issues, Amref Health Africa with support from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports  and the local government leadership in Amuru district;agreed to support  10 primary schools that have been highly affected by the  above issues.  On 31st March Amref health Africa handed over 10, 05stance drainable pit latrines with Menstrual Hygiene Management spaces for girls to 10  Primary schools in Amuru district  worth over 380 million Uganda shilling.

 This support was made possible with funding from Amref Flying Doctors in the Netherlands.  Through this integrated intervention  we expect that it will contribute towards having  the girl child stay longer in school , comfortably , thus the ripple effect  will be seeing  a   reduction of teenage pregnancies in schools , child marriage and school dropout  this is due to the fact that the project  is integrating Sexual Reproductive Health  rights and increased access to safe Sanitation , Water  and Hygiene practices.

The 10 schools which  have benefited in this  first phase of the project are Mutema, Keyo, Lacor, Kaladima, Paminalwak, Abeera, Abbot, Labala, Oolaamilobo and Jimo primary schools. Each of the schools have between 700 – 1,300 pupils; implying that  over 10,000 pupils were reached with these services and SRHR information. 

Voices from the communities

Angoo Charity Peace, a p 6 pupil at Lacor primary school said that she used to miss out on her studies every other month when she is in her menstruation period, her periods takes about 4 days to clear. Consequently she would miss classes for those 04 days because her school lacked changing rooms. .   She believes that one of the contributing factors of her poor performance that led to her repeating a class  was due to missing class every other month thus she could not catch up with what she would have missed while she was away.  

Angoo added that with the establishment of the new modern latrine facility that has a changing room and clean running clean, in her school,  she expects to improve on her academic performance since she would not miss lessons anymore.

Ogena Alex the head teacher Keyo primary – which has an enrollment of 1,300 pupils this year  of which  400 are  girls,  said that the changing rooms in the newly constructed pit latrine is going to help those girls who used to miss classes during menstruation period due to no proper changing and washing rooms within schoolAdding that the girls’ enrolment is going to increase.  The school  has also budgeted for   sanitary pads and changing uniforms for the girls  cycle might begin while at  school.

Joyce Lanyero, the Amuru District Education Officer, said that with the construction of proper girls changing room, the district is optimistic that there will be an improvement in the girls’ enrolment and performance academically as the days they might spend at home during the period can be utilized for lessons and concentration.

Amref Health Africa  message to the district , school children and the community .

Margaret Mugisa  the Project Manager  of Amref health Africa  in Gulu and Amuru districts said that the construction latrine facilities  with menstrual Hygiene Management Spaces for girls  is  among  some of the interventions aimed at improving hygiene and  reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancy among girls who normally drop out of schools during menstruation period. .  She called upon the pupils , the school administration , the local government and the communities to uphold hygiene  behaviors, safe guard the facilities (latrines)  by ensuring proper usage, hygiene and maintenance  in if they are to reduce girl child drop outs and improve on the health status of pupils in the district.  

By  Denis Otti , Nicholas Obonyo and Valentine Ojoro


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