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Peer pressure ended her education

early pregnancy and school dropout, refugees
© UNICEF Uganda/2018/Sibiloni
Patience Dramuke breaks down as she narrates her story.
By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

At the age of 12, Patience Dramuke (not real names) started her menstrual cycle, which she says was very painful. Her friends advised her to engage in sex as one of the ways to reduce the pain. “When I started my periods, I asked my grandmother for money to buy sanitary pads but she told me she didn’t have the money,” says Dramuke.

Helpless at that time while still in South Sudan, Dramuke remembered the ‘advise’ of her friends with the hope that once she gets a boyfriend, he would provide sanitary pads for her.

“My friends got me a boyfriend and straight away he wanted to have sex. I had changed my mind about the sex issue and didn’t want to engage in it. One day he found me alone on my way to home, he raped me. A month later, I realized I had missed my period. I told my grandmother who advised that I go to the health centre for testing. The test was positive. I was pregnant,” Dramuke carrying her 3-year-old daughter says.

Upon receiving the results that her granddaughter was pregnant, Dramuke’s grandmother wrote a letter to the young boy, asking him to marry Dramuke. The father of the baby accepted but life was never the same for Dramuke. Upon learning that Dramuke was using family planning so that she can return to school, the father of her daughter started battering her and chased her from his home.

Dramuke was lucky that when she returned home, one of her aunties was willing to look after her and the baby. She even took her back to school until the war in South Sudan broke out in 2016.

“We came to Uganda for safety. I joined school primary six here and I passed well. I was promoted to primary seven. Later, my auntie had to travel back to South Sudan. This made things worse. I would miss classes to attend to my daughter and home chores,” she says, wearing a sad face.

She stays by herself and her daughter in Maaji II Refugee Settlement in Adjumani District, West Nile
Dramuke could not continue with her education as her grades deteriorated. She would be dull in class and most of the times report to school at 9am yet lessons start at 7am.

Through phone conversations with her aunty in South Sudan, she told Dramuke of the UNICEF Adolescent Programme. She encouraged her to join so that she can learn new skills.

When a team from UNICEF and Danish Refugee Council visited Maaji II refugee settlement in April 2018, Dramuke was among tens of adolescent girls learning ‘tie and die” tailoring. She says she has also learnt how to design bedsheets. “I am grateful to our mentors for teaching us and imparting skills in us. I was so heart broken when I joined this group. But the mentors counselled me on how to stay positive and interact with other people,” she explains.

Stella Abwol, Project Officer DRC says at Maaji II, they have 225 adolescents with majority of the girls undergoing life skills, vocational skills and information technology training. Dramuke says the training she is receiving is very good for adolescents who have dropped out of school instead of being idle adding that all they learn is practical.

Vicky Andra, cluster leader of C2 where Dramuke lives with her daughter is praise of DRC and UNICEF for providing opportunities to girls who want to resume school after dropping out. She notes that Dramuke loves school “but there is no one to take care of her baby.”

Andra is hopeful that any support extended to Dramuke through the adolescent development programme will change her life.

With funding from 7 Fund, 1,890 girls like Dramuke who are out of school in Adjumani will be supported. The programme aims to ensure an effective child protection system that will inturn help children go to school, stay in school or go back to school.

 

 
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