“Last week I was in the Namutumba district of Eastern Uganda, visiting villages that are nearby to a new partner school.
I was being shown around one village by Christine, a teacher from the school. As we walked from house to house, any pupils from the school would recognise her and run out to greet her with big smiles. We then arrived at the home of a young girl in Primary 4 called Harriet. Harriet didn’t run out to greet us as the other children had, but instead hung back and hid. It was then that Christine realised that Harriet was pregnant.
Christine broke down in tears and told me what she knew of Harriet’s situation. Harriet and her siblings had been abandoned by their parents and did not know of their whereabouts. They had been in the care of their grandmother. Sadly, a few months ago, Harriet’s grandmother passed away. There were no other family members to look after them and they were alone. Harriet, at the age of only 12 years old, had to take on her grandmother’s responsibilities while still a child herself.
Christine shared with me that school was a safe place for Harriet, but without it, the lockdown left her alone and destitute.
Over the past year, while young girls have been forced to stay home, there are men in the villages who will prey on these vulnerable young girls especially those living in extreme poverty and who have no family support. Christine said that many young girls have been forced to become young women far too early and are unlikely ever to return to school.”
Rachel Kadondi, Community Development Officer, Fields of Life East Africa
Our staff in East Africa have shared many stories about young girls like Harriet who have been forced in early marriage or have fallen pregnant over this past year while schools have been closed. Our hearts break for these children who have been denied not only an education, but a childhood. This is why we need to act now.
We risk a lost generation of children who will never return to school. 542 children and young people urgently need our help. We believe now is the time to sow the seed of lasting change.