Reformed warriors, teenage mothers find hope through education in Moroto

Some of the teenage mothers in Atedeoi primary school. PHOTO URN

Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Through the Save the Children initiative under the Strengthening Education System and Bridging Learning Loss (SESBiLL) project, reformed warriors and teenage mothers in the Moroto district are finding hope and changing their communities through education.

The project targets children aged 10 to 18 from vulnerable backgrounds, including child mothers and those who dropped out during the COVID-19 lockdown. Five community primary schools in Nadunget, Lotisan, Tapac, and Katikekile sub-counties are participating in the project, which began in June 2021 and runs for three years.

Impact on Teenage Mothers

Sandra Apio, a teenage mother of twins studying at Musupo Primary School, shared her story. She conceived at 14, was abandoned by her boyfriend, and faced severe hardship with no support from her parents.

“My living conditions worsened, I needed basic support for the babies, soap, clothes, and food but was nowhere to find them, my parents never wanted to hear any of my complaints because their interest was to see me in my husband’s home who would give them cows’’ Apio said.

Upon joining the SESBiLL project, she received 55,000 Shillings for educational materials and personal needs, which motivated her to stay in school. Pascal Lolem, another teenage mother at Lokeriaut Primary School, also benefitted from the project. She conceived at 15, was abandoned, and had to burn charcoal to survive.

‘’I come from a very vulnerable family, I had to burn charcoal to sell to get money to buy food for the family and necessities for my baby’’ Lolem explained. With the project’s support, she re-enrolled in school, receiving the necessary materials and support to continue her education.

Impact on Reformed Warriors

Michael Lochoro, a reformed warrior studying in P7 at Lokeriaut Primary School, joined the warrior group at nine after losing his parents. The project provided him an opportunity to leave that life behind. With the project’s support, he returned to school, escaping the cycle of violence and gaining a chance at a better future.

Community and School Development   

Caregivers and teachers, like Lopuli Maltina at Atedeoi Primary School, counsel teenage mothers and encourage them to focus on their education rather than succumb to cultural pressures. Dominic Lokutan, the Headteacher of Lokeriaut Primary School, reported that school enrollment increased from 400 to 900 learners since the project’s inception, with improved community participation in school development.

Samuel Abong, the Headteacher of Atedeoi Primary School, highlighted the project’s role in creating a safe, supportive environment for girls. He noted that incentives and the school gardening program significantly contributed to student retention and well-being.

Simon Opolot, Headteacher of Musupo Primary School, saw enrollment rise from 200 to 700 students. Despite these gains, he observed that some parents only sent their children to school to receive the project’s financial incentives, leading to a decrease in attendance after distribution.

Overall Achievements

Moroto District Education Officer Markson Ojao emphasized the project’s success in rescuing and educating vulnerable children, especially teenage mothers who had lost hope.

‘’When the project started, the token given to children attracted very many children enrolling in schools. It also supported the single mothers because they could use the same money to buy babies’ needs,’’ Ojao said. The SESBiLL project supported community schools reliant on partners, provided financial incentives to learners, and improved teacher capacity and community involvement.

Moses Okello, SESBiLL project coordinator, explained the accelerated education program’s structure, which ensured learners completed primary education within three years. The project registered 2,498 learners, recruited 45 additional teachers, and provided substantial financial support for school feeding programs and scholastic materials.

As the project nears its end, 102 learners have completed primary school, with many now attending secondary school, demonstrating the project’s significant impact on education and community development in the Moroto district.

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