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Uganda: Catherine defies odds to resume school after pregnancy

  • Uganda: Catherine defies odds to resume school after pregnancy

In early May, Kasese Youth Polytechnic (KYP) in Kasese opened its gates to first-year students who were eager and ready to pursue various technical courses. Many were vibrant and excited about what would be several years of adventure and continuous learning. However, for 18-year-old Biira Catherine, hers would be an entirely different story from the new entrants.

Catherine enrolled in a National Certificate course in Building and Practice. However, before that, she got pregnant during her senior six holidays and was 7 months long when the semester started. Enrolling in a course that is perceived to be only for males was a challenge for Catherine who was also expecting anytime soon. Nonetheless, this did not deter her or muddle her confidence in pursuing a course in Building and Concrete Practice.

‘From an early age, I have always wanted to become a civil engineer and an instructor in the field of construction,’ said Catherine, as she playfully twisted the spatula she uses to make a mixture for the building blocks. On learning of Catherine’s condition, the school was hesitant to accommodate her but she insisted that she would manage and meet the expectations.  Eventually, one of her instructors gave in and he even lets her use his office as a resting and breastfeeding place for both Catherine and her 2½-month-old son.

According to the UNFPA 2021 factsheet on pregnancy, a total of 290,219 teenage pregnancies in Uganda were recorded from January to September 2021. This number implied that women were already mothers or pregnant by the age of 18, with studies also showing that girls drop out of school due to the stigma associated with early pregnancies. During her school days, Catherine still faces several challenges that she hopes can be addressed. ‘I hope we can have a structure set up for nursing mothers to breastfeed and for our babies to rest at whatever time they wish,’ she remarks. Despite this, Catherine is persevering and she hopes hers can be a lesson to other young mothers to pursue their dreams no matter what. ‘I encourage young girls and mothers to join skilling programs to have a future they want,’ said Catherine.

Enabel, the Belgian development agency, through the Support to Skilling Project, has supported the enrolment of females in several vocational training institutes through the construction of female dormitories and state-of-the-art classrooms and workshops. From 2016 until 2020, over 1,983 females enrolled for vocational training in the 7 partner institutes supported by Enabel in the regions of Albertine-Rwenzori and Karamoja.

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