AT least 67 girl students were impregnated in Biharamulo and Ngara districts during the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Biharamulo District Education Officer (Academic) Boaz Kamugisha said 32 girl students (two of them – one in Form Five and the other in Form Six) were impregnated and had been expelled from school.
“This is a big concern. We have never witnessed such a big number of pregnant girl students in a short period,” he said.
The number of pregnant primary and secondary schoolgirls in Ngara District had increased to 35 by August 4, this year.
Ngara District Education Officer (Academic) Enock Ntakiligaye noted that in the district 7 primary schoolgirls and 28 secondary schoolgirls had been impregnated, warning that the government was making a follow-up to schoolgirl pregnancy cases and would take stern measures against the culprits.
He appealed to residents to collectively fight against outdated laws, customs and practices that were detrimental to millions of girls and women as they deprived them of their constitutional rights and facilitated various forms of discrimination.
“We must cooperate to make girls and women safe and free from violence or threats of violence. Gender-based violence remains a major health and human rights concern and no human development can be achieved as long as girls and women continue suffering from violence or live in fear,” he said.
Explaining the magnitude of the problem, Mr Ntakiligaye said millions of girls and women were subjected to all forms of violence, including rape, intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and sexual violence, adding that all such forms of abuse left the victims in prolonged psychological distress.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence directed towards a person on the basis of gender.
It constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity.
It includes domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, sexual violence during conflict and harmful customary or traditional practices such as FGM, forced marriage and other crimes.
Schoolgirls who hired rooms far from their parents said living far from home was one of the reasons for increasing sexual activities among schoolgirls.
The high rate of schoolgirl pregnancy is not only contributed by poverty and ignorance, but also other social factors that affect day to day life of teenagers.
Teen pregnancy is due to unprotected and early sexual intercourse which also exposes schoolgirls to other risks of contacting sexually-transmitted infections (STDs) such as HIV/ Aids.
Preventing schoolgirls from premarital intercourse is an important intervention in early age. Sex education, its impact and use of contraceptives should be provided to schoolgirls starting from primary school.
Programmes targeting attitudes and social norms that facilitate sexual activities among the youth should be encouraged.