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Kaku is in school, not happy at home but not ready for marriage

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 is in school but unhappy at home. A student of Senior One at Maaji Secondary School which is a stone throw away from her home, Kaku cannot concentrate in class.

“My mother is always drinking. She returns home drunk and quarrels until morning. She sells all the rations we get to buy alcohol. I am in school but I don’t have school fees, no school requirements,” Kaku narrates while at her home in Maaji II Refugee Settlement, Adjumani district, West Nile.

Life was much easier during her Primary Seven when she had just left South Sudan. Kaku says at her previous primary school, everything was for free and she had nothing to worry about. At her current 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.

While in South Sudan, Kaku’s father abandoned them to remarry another wife. Kaku is now worried that, should her mother die of drinking alcohol, she and her sibling will be left alone since most of the relatives died in South Sudan.

“At school I am always thinking about my mother and asking myself why she is drinking too much alcohol. My friends advise 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 may push me  into marriage . I am still young and I want to continue with my studies.” she narrates while crying.

Joyce Kidde,38, Kaku’s mother says she drinks because she is worried about her daughter’s future. “I don’t have any money. I wish a good Samaritan would come and take care of my daughter. that is all I am asking for,” she reveals.

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 will follow 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 that well-functioning, well-resourced and safe/protective schools become change agents in the community and become effective platforms connecting children, their communities with the child protection system.



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