Early parenting: Being a teenage parent is one of the most challenging situations, especially if someone is still in school. The ridicule from your parents, the scoffing from friends and school mates and the embarrassment are some of the aftermaths theses young people have to deal with. So, what happens when you become a victim of teenage pregnancy? Four young people share their experiences with Esther Oluka on what it meant having a child during their teenage years, how they coped and the lessons they learnt along the way.
Leah Kyeyune, 28: I became a mother at 16
“I realised I was pregnant after breaking off for my Senior Three third term holidays at Lugazi Progressive Secondary School. I had my suspicions after missing my period and noticed some body changes. I was so embarrassed that I ran away from home and joined my boyfriend. I was 16 at the time and he was 23 and already working.
Upon telling him I was expecting, he remained calm and promised everything would be alright. When my family later learnt about the pregnancy and found me staying with him, they were bitter. They blamed me for being reckless and destroying my future. Since my boyfriend accepted responsibility, they let me stay with him. He looked after me during the pregnancy and after the baby was born.
Over the years, the relationship was strained and we parted ways. I met someone else, and today, I have three more children.
Sometimes I wish I had been more careful, maybe, I would have completed my education, You see, after having my first born, I destroyed my chances and never went back to school. So, if you still have the chance to study, utilise it fully. The children can always come later.”
Olive Eyotaru, 34, Assistant editor of Hansard at Parliament
I gave birth at 17 years
“I was 17 years old when I got pregnant. I was in my Senior Five at Taibah High School and during my second term, I realised that I had missed my period for two consecutive months. At first, I did not take it seriously because when I started having my periods at round 14 years, I would skip two or three months.
However, this time around, I was throwing up every morning. Feeling concerned, I decided to go to the school sick bay to test for malaria but the results showed that I was alright. After the two months, the nausea went away but my period did not come. At that point, I started to suspect that I was indeed pregnant. I called my then boyfriend, who was nine years my senior and was working at the time and shared my fears with him but he told me all was okay. I spent most of my second term holidays at home sleeping, still doubting the pregnancy.
When I returned to school in third term, the headmistress, Ms Muweesi, ordered the school nurse to conduct an impromptu pregnancy checkup on all the girls. From what I later learnt, one of the girls in Senior One had been discovered pregnant. A couple of days after the checkup, I was summoned to the headmistress’ office. It was at that point that my fears were confirmed. She sat me down and broke the news to me. I burst out in tears, unsure of how to react. Surprisingly, she was very calm and assured me that everything would be fine. During that time in her office, she counselled me on what to expect once I break the news to my parents and siblings. She said pregnancy was not the end of the world and that once I gave birth, I should return and continue with my studies. We were about to write our end of third term exams, so she asked me to first do them so I could get a third term report. In the event that I felt uncomfortable returning to the school, she stated that I could use it to join another school. I gave her my sister, Fiona’s number.
Breaking the news
I went to live with my sister at her hostel inside Makerere University. We were still figuring out how to break the news to my parents. When schools closed for holidays, I went home. With my other sister, Maureen, we sat down with mum and broke the news to her. She flipped out. It was one of the most challenging moments for my family and I. Surprisingly, when my father found out, he did not say much. He is a man of few words. He would later express his disappointment, but assured me he would pay my school fees whenever I was ready to return to school. Many people asked me why I did not abort the baby but I assured them that it was not an option for me. Because I was underage, some of my relatives threatened to arrest the father of the baby, but this did not happen. Of course, some neighbours judged me, so I spent most of my time indoors to avoid their harsh comments, until I gave birth on February 18, 2002. My parents were both present.
Returning to school
For the first five months, I stayed home in Entebbe. I did not have a nanny, so I had to take care of my child and do all the house chores. Since I was still determined to go back to school, I enrolled for Senior Six at Makerere High School. The deputy headmaster gave me the opportunity to study for one and a half terms (middle of second term and third term).
I had to move to Kampala, staying at my cousin’s place, where I commuted to school while my sister stayed home with the child. It was quite tasking that I would be at school trying to concentrate yet my child was on my mind.
When I joined Uganda Christian University, Mukono to study Mass Communication, I had to take my daughter back to my parents’ home. I would visit twice a month while sometimes my dad would drive to Mukono with her. What kept me at peace was the fact that my parents treated her like their last born and my sisters and brothers always chipped in to help.
My daughter is now a S.4 candidate. The journey has not been easy because in some instances, I was financially constrained and had to keep asking for help from my parents. Thank God they always offered the help. Her father, who passed on in 2015, offered some help but I did most of the work.
My experience was challenging. When you are not ready for something like this, you might rush into bad decisions such as abortions or early child marriages. My resolve to go back to school, with the encouragement of my parents, changed my life. Many a time, once a girl gets pregnant, that is the end of the road for her. She is either married off or condemned to stay home. I once spoke to a father whose daughter faced a similar predicament. He was hell bent on marrying her off but when I spoke to him about my experience, it opened his eyes. For young teen mums, the experience should not stop you from living your dreams. Go back to school and aspire to succeed. I always tell myself that a hiccup like this in life should be a lesson. There are schools that reject pregnant girls. Pregnancy is not a punishment.”
Juma Ngobi, 27, elevator technician
I became a father at 18 years
“I became a father right after sitting my final Senior Four examinations in 2009 at Kyabazinga College in Kamuli District.
From the time I learnt that I was going to become a father, I became very afraid and worried, especially about my future. I regretted my actions.
After the baby was born, his mother dropped out of school for one year to look after him. She was in Senior One in another school.
Her guardians were very understanding and supportive. They accommodated her and the baby and catered for their respective needs, including food and medical care.
Meanwhile, my aunt who was looking after me and paying my school fees, was very angry.
According to her, I had destroyed my future by becoming a father at a young age. In fact, she refused to continue paying my tuition after Senior Four.
Rather, she advised me to get a job in order to earn some money to help support the baby. She emphasised that I take responsibility for my actions.
I opted to do different casual jobs, including selling shoes and the little money that I got is part of what I would send for the baby’s upkeep.
The responsibility of looking after the baby affected my education. I failed to enroll for my A-Level and instead opted to study a diploma in Electrical Engineering from Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). I graduated in 2015.
Sadly, the relationship did not work out. My son stays with his mother and I continue to support them financially. I occasionally visit. I am now in another relationship.
Advice to teenage boys
I advise boys in school to focus on their studies and abstain from sex. From my personal experience, I learnt that it is very challenging to be a young parent. It takes a toll on you emotionally and psychologically. Also, you miss out on so many opportunities in life.
Miria Katiti Nambalirwa, 29,
I got pregnant at 17 years
“I found out about my first pregnancy during my first term in Senior Four at Midland High School in Kawempe.
I had missed my period for a couple of months, I felt funny and I was often sleepy with a frequent bitter taste in my mouth.
I confided in a classmate about my pregnancy fears after she found me crying alone. Obviously, she was shocked but consoled me and encouraged me to keep the pregnancy. She gave me my first step of encouragement and also kept the information to herself.
Why she became pregnant…
My boyfriend and I met while I was in Senior Three and I was attracted to his tall stature and handsome looks. When we started getting intimate, he hated the idea of using condoms because they irritated him. The naïve girl I was, I feared that if I did not have sex with him, he would dump me for another girl. So I just gave in.
When I broke the news to him about the pregnancy, he remained calm and hated the idea of an abortion. Together, we agreed to rent a small apartment to live in together and promised to make ends meet. He worked as a shop sales attendant at the time.
I escaped from my brother’s house and joined my boyfriend. I did not return to school for the rest of the other school terms. Although my mother was out of the country, she learnt about the news from my grandmother. My mother called to counsel me and encouraged me to have the baby, sending assistance from time to time. I gave birth to my son in November 2006.
Going back to school
Since I was determined to return to school, I told my mother and she encouraged me to enroll directly for Senior Four at Lubiri High School and later A-Level at Mengo Senior School. At both schools, I was in the day section. Later, I enrolled for a Bachelors degree in Accounting at Ndejje University.
My mother paid my tuition and helped tend to the baby’s needs. Lucky for me, my boyfriend was also supportive and we have since had a second child.
Advice to teenage mothers
In case you are going through a similar ordeal, remain positive and stay away from self-pity. If you get another opportunity, please go back to school. Do not give up on yourself.”