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South Sudan: Encouraging pregnant girls to stay in school

Despite becoming pregnant at 14, Tabu didn’tive up her hopes of going further with her education.

In Mvolo county, South Sudan, the numbers of girls enrolling and staying in school is poor due to early pregnancies and cultural practices that keep girls away from schooling, but this didn’t stop Tabu.

 Tabu continued attending school to complete her final primary school year. After delivering her son Yobu, she only stayed home for one and half months, before joining Mvolo’s secondary school.

Tabu with her one-year-old son, Yobu

Courage

Tabu’s courage to attend school while pregnant, and bringing her young son to school after she delivered, is not common among many girls in South Sudan.

Most would shy away from this situation, sometimes to return to school after the child is grown up – or most usually completely dropping out of school .

Despite Tabu’s courage, things have not been easy for the young mother and student. “It was an unexpected pregnancy. I never thought of becoming pregnant at this age.

Taken to class

“It is a difficult thing to do when you are in school. I had to go to school when I was pregnant, and even when I delivered I stayed at home for only one and half months and then returned to school,” said Tabu.

With no one to take care of her baby, and as she’s not officially married to Yobu’s father, Tabu was forced to go to class with her son.

“I carry my child with me, and sometimes if there is another child in the school, I leave my baby to play with them while I am in class. When my child is sick, I stop going to school and take him to the clinic,” Tabu shared.

Learning from experience

 Tabu tells other students to learn from her personal experience. “I advise my colleagues not to do the same thing I did, because it is difficult to have a baby while you are in school.

“It is difficult to take care of a baby when you are not working. When you don’t plan a pregnancy, the man can abandon you and you suffer alone bringing up the baby.”

Mvolo County has the lowest number of girls attending school – especially in senior classes. When Mvolo Secondary School opened its doors in 2008, there was not a single girl student.

Not a single girl

“We didn’t have girls in secondary until 2010, because when the girls in Mvolo reach classes primary six to eight, they either become pregnant or they are pulled out of school by their parents so they can be groomed for marriage,” says the deputy headmaster of Mvolo Secondary School, Asiku Kassim.

Today, out of 68 students in the school, there are only seven girls, and five of them are teenage mothers. “Because of the high dropout rate of girls due to pregnancy, we encourage the girls to continue attending school even if pregnant, and to bring their children to school if they need to. We also urge the parents to support their daughters when in school” said Kassim.

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