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“I don’t want to get married”- Adolescent girl from South Sudan

challenges of adolescent refugee girls from South Sudan
© UNICEF Uganda/2018/Sibiloni
Kaku attends a classroom session.

By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

15-year-old, Jacqueline Kaku, a South Sudanese adolescent girl living in Maaji II refugee settlement in Adjumani district is worried that her mother will force her into marriage.

While in South Sudan, Kaku’s father abandoned them to remarry another wife, forcing the mother to resort to drinking. When the war broke out in her community, Kaku and her mother sought refuge in Uganda

“We didn’t know where we were going. We just followed people running,” says Kaku.

Whereas she is happy to be safe and accessing education in Uganda, Kaku is not sure if she will complete her studies.

As an adolescent, she is experiencing challenges at home whereby her mother cannot provide her with the required scholastic materials like school fees, books, pens, uniform and other school requirements including sugar, maize and cooking oil to enable the school prepare meals for the students.

“My mother sells our food rations to buy alcohol. She says she doesn’t have money for my school fees and other needs. She wants to force me into marriage. I want to continue with my studies. I don’t want to get married,” says Kaku as tears roll down her cheeks.

At Maaji Secondary School, school fees for new students is $24.4. In addition, students are required to pay $2.7 for other items, 10kgs of maize grain, 4kgs of beans and 1 litre of cooking oil.

“At school  I am always thinking about my mother and asking myself why she is drinking alcohol too much. My friends talk to me not to worry but it is inevitable. I am worried that if my mother fails to pay my schools fees and provide the school requirements, she will push me into marriage. I am still young.” she narrates.

Joyce Kidde,38, Kaku’s mother says, “I don’t have any money. I wish a good Samaritan.  would come and take care of my daughter.”

Jessica Beruchan, the deputy head teacher of Maaji Secondary School says Kaku is an average girl in terms of performance. “She is a good girl. She freely interacts with others. She can perform better. I recently engaged her to find out why she is always sad and she told me about her mother’s alcohol problem,” says Beruchan.

The school is now patient with Kaku and will allow her complete the second term of 2018 as her mother finds ways of paying the school fees and meeting the requirements. In addition, UNICEF through Danish Refugee Council is following up with Kaku and the mother to provide psychosocial services.

Kaku and 18,666 other vulnerable adolescent girls in school are set to benefit from the 7 Fund project aimed at increasing adolescent girls’ attendance in secondary school.  The goal of the project is to ensure a well-functioning, well-resourced and safe/protective schools become change agents in the community and become an effective platform connecting children, their communities with the child protection system.

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