Everyone has a dream , Getting teenage girls back in school

My name is Barasa Moses. I reside in Nangera village. My wife, Vihenda Lydia Barasa and I have 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys. My daughter, Leah Nabwire got pregnant at the age of 15. She was in P.7 at the time. I was furious. Even worse was that this was not the first time something like this happened in my household. Her elder sister had also gotten pregnant while in S.3. This made me even more furious because I clearly recalled the challenges my wife and I faced the first time round. When I found out I chased her away from home with the suggestion that she goes and gets married. Leah left home.

A few days later, Dennis Masiga, peer educator for Heroes for gender transformative action programme came to my home and had a sit down with me. I was quick to ask what the reason for the visit was because as you can imagine I was still very angry. He introduced himself said he just wanted to have a conversation with me concerning Leah. He reasoned with me and made me understand that the chasing Leah away as punishment might have dire consequences, even suicide on the extreme. He encouraged me to stay calm and invite Leah back home. Not only that, Dennis encouraged that I treat Leah with love and compassion when she does return home. I listened to Dennis. He is a young man but I had seen him before at the health facility talking to a group of older people including myself so I trusted him.

L, Masiga Dennis, peer educator for Heroes4GTA, C, Barasa Moses and R, Vihenda Lydia Barasa during a sit down.

A week later I heard that Leah was staying with her grandmother. I requested that she return home and goes back to school because she had already registered for PLE. Her grandmother was skeptical.

She thought the Father will hurt Leah in some way if she did return home. I put her mind at ease and assured her that I’d had a change of heart and would do no such thing. When Leah returned home, I asked whether she’d learnt her lesson and now realized the consequences of giving in to deception and peer pressure. She said she had and that she wanted to go back to school and study.

I went as far as going to the family of the boy who impregnated Leah. He was a pupil himself from the same school, Nangera Primary school and encouraged his parents to let him go back to school as well. I shared the knowledge I had acquired from Dennis and told them that things like this happen for many different reasons but it should not deprive their son of an education. My only request was that they support us once the child was born.

Leah Nabwire with her son, Mwagsa Bennett Praise

I’ve learned so much from Dennis and because he continued to speak to and offer guidance to Leah, she successfully completed her PLE and passed with 25 aggregates. She was admitted to Banda Secondary School and is now continuing with her education. I therefore appreciate Dennis and the Heroes for Gender transformative action for intervening and for all the support accorded to us while dealing with this matter. I am now home with both my grandchildren and there’s harmony.

Vihenda Lydia Barasa, C, Leah Nabwire, Moses Barasa and their grandchildren.

The people in my community however still have a negative mindset towards educating girls especially after they have gotten pregnant along the way. They ask me why I took my girls back to school after they got pregnant. They see it as a waste of time. I tell them that I recognize the fact that Leah gave birth but she herself is still a child whose dreams are still valid and therefore can still go back to school. I also emphasize that getting pregnant is like having an accident, next time they’ll be more careful not to let it happen again. I noticed that some people in the community would rather they sit home and become failures after an ordeal like this.

I have a neighbor whose daughter also got pregnant. I encouraged him to also let her go back to school and she did. Most of the people in our community, when their daughters get pregnant, that is the end of the road for them. They continue to wonder the kind of heart I have to let mine get back to school even after pregnancy. It is credited to the knowledge, guidance and support I have acquired through Dennis from the Heroes programme.

The joy of a child with a second chance.

L-R Barasa Moses, Leah Nabwire holding her son and Vihenda Lydia Barasa

My name is Vihenda Lydia Barasa. My husband and I reside in Nangera village. For me it felt like I had a front row seat to watching my daughters’ morals degenerate and I knew that it wasn’t just them, there were others in other households as well. I inquired from our councilor whether we could make time and talk to the girls in our village to stop the hemorrhaging. We started by asking them what they knew about sexual reproductive health and they said “nothing” and that was our starting point.

We tell them about some of the things that might drive them into temptations that result into violations of their sexual reproductive health. Sometimes girls are deceived with money because they are hungry and on top of that have to walk long distances to school. It is boda boda men who especially take advantage of this fact. They may offer them rides for free and on top of that give them money to buy something to eat at school. It is from there that the girls feel obligated to return these favors and yet they are gullible enough to believe that these people will take care of them afterwards. We discourage them from being receptive to this kind of treatment and also warn them that usually the outcome is pregnancy and the perpetrator gone with the wind.

Vihenda Lydia Barasa feeding her grand child.

That is what happened with my daughter Leah. I had a conversation with her where I discovered that she was a victim of peer pressure. Her friends encouraged her to escape from home at night to attend what they call fund-raising. Leah would leave the house at 3am in the morning without our knowledge. Later, her teachers were concerned that she wasn’t happy and constantly looked tired. They thought that I was over working her at home. At the time we would wake up and go to the garden first thing in the morning before she goes to school but I promised I would stop taking Leah with us. This didn’t make a difference because soon after, one of her teachers called me with the same concern and added that Leah didn’t seem interested by school anymore.

I had a private sit down with my daughter to understand what was going on. Leah claimed she had a fever, went to the hospital for check up but hid the medicine on return. About 2 or 3 months later, I started noticing some body changes that were pointing to the fact that Leah was pregnant. Soon after, Leah started isolating herself from the rest of the family.

The day that she was honest with me and told me what had transpired, I was angry not only because she was pregnant but also because it took me back to what we’d gone through prior with her elder sister. Soon after I found out, so did her father. He immediately reacted by chasing her away from home saying he doesn’t look after women but children. Leah left home. A few days later Dennis came home and had a sit-down with my husband and as a result Leah returned home and went back to school.

Masiga Dennis together with Leah and her son

Because we don’t have money my husband got discouraged at first. It seemed like even the little we had was going to waste as school fees for Leah. I reminded him of Dennis’ efforts and what he’d told us in regards to Leah about acceptance, love and compassion. He listened, continued to pay her school fees and she was able to successfully finish primary seven. So now, Leah goes to Banda Secondary school and leaves the baby at home with us to take care of. She is currently in Senior one.

Leah leaving her son with his grandmother before proceeding to school.

The biggest challenge that we still have is poverty. Sometimes we are able to get enough for the baby’s milk but other times he has to wait until his mother comes back from school to feed.

I continue to encourage fellow parents to approach an issue like teenage pregnancy with understanding. I encourage them not to neglect their daughters because they can still pursue a bright future.