“The leading cause of school dropouts among teenagers and especially girls, is the rising cases of teen pregnancies, followed by poverty, among other factors”. These were the opening remarks of the Executive Director of Lake Albert Social Network (LASNET) Mr. Robert Agenonga during the 2017 Annual Girls Talk at Nebbi Town Secondary School on Saturday 27th May, while addressing the gathering and attendees comprising of over 1,500 girls, boys, about 5 school heads, 2 religious leaders(from the Catholic and the Islamic faith, Nebbi District Education officer, Youth councilor and the Woman Member of Parliament. Robert said that only 51% of girls in the district complete primary school compared to 56%of boys, with a general 54% completion rate of primary seven for girls alone. In the same way, the District Education Officer Mr. Okila John Geoffrey said there is a 10% increase of girls enrolling in pre-primary in the district, some thing he says gives a ray of hope for improvement of education for girls in the district. Nebbi district is one of the many districts that compose the West Nile region in the North Western Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC). Other districts neighboring Nebbi include Zombo, Paidha, Packwach, and Arua. This year’s annual girls talk was organized by the Lake Albert Social Network (LASNET) in partnership with Smart Toto, Kaleke Kasome Foundation, friends from Michigan and California and the Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health (UYAFPAH).
Among the activities of the Annual Girls Talk this year was donations of books authored by Mr. Paul Sutherland a friend from Michigan, food stuffs such as beans, rice, biscuits and juice given by Smart Toto- Miss Mago Hasfa and friends from California- Cindy and Will, information materials about the dangers of early sex, teenage pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among others from Miss Joan Amanda Banura of UYAFPAH. There were live performances from Mr. Maurice Hasa a pronounced Ugandan Music artist and founder of the Kaleke Kasome Foundation.
In her message, the Co-founder of UYAFPAH and Country Coordinator of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP) Miss Joan Amanda Banura, appealed to the member of parliament Honorable Aol Jacqueline who was the chief guest of the day to fight harder to ensure that the district gets at least a youth friendly corner or facility to offer youth friendly services that are lacking greatly in the entire district. She added that the district office must work hand in hand with the young people of Nebbi to collectively develop the district by supporting and encouraging youth engagements and cretins such as the Annual Girls Talk events. Miss Joan Amanda also encouraged the young people of Nebbi district to be creative and not sit around waiting to be given everything but rather work hard for whatever they want with ambition and life goals beyond the present. She advised parents not to let the world train their children but rather take up the challenge and talk to their children about reproductive health concerns.
In her speech, the honorable member of parliament for Nebbi district, Aol Jacqueline advised residents to look at girls and youth as development partners, to walk the talk not leaving boys and men behind as the first influences in the girl child education.
THE SITUATION OF NEBBI DISTRICT’S GIRL CHILD.
Girls in the district are mostly married off to boys and old men without being given a chance to pursue high secondary education, while boys too are demanded to stop school and take parental roles at a very early stage. Polygamy and wide families with many children is considered as prestige, an aspect that has fed the growth of poverty in the district. Infrastructure is very poor in most schools in the districts of Nebbi and Zombo, with schools lacking toilets, and proper bathrooms, lack of bed facilities for those with boarding section. Parents have let their children engage themselves in many unnecessary leisure activities such as drug abuse which is common now in many aspects of life. It’s normal to smoke opium in some places within and outside schools. The mindset of parents and teachers towards education and work is very bad. The Nebbi Town Secondary School Head teacher Mr. Chemarum Jimmy Klit says adequate infrastructure and care for the girls will break the stigma of illiteracy which continues to hound the girls who have resorted to early sex, unwanted pregnancies, early and forced marriages.