At 17, Jenifer is the head of her household and is committed to stay in school

Jenifer Tete's story

By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi
adolescent development, vocational training
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Abdul
18 April 2019

At 17 years, Jenifer Tete attends to a number of responsibilities. At Maaji Seed Secondary School in Maaji II Refugee Settlement in Adjumani district, Tete who is in Senior two is the head girl and a member of the school hygiene club.

At home, she is the ‘father and mother’ of four of her siblings aged 14, 12, 10 and 6. When her lessons end in the evening, Tete goes to the market to buy food and returns home to cook the food. Despite all these responsibilities at home, Tete is committed to stay in school and isaspiring to become an accountant.

adolescent development, vocational training
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Abdul

“Nothing scares me at school. I like the environment at school. It is favorable and the teachers are very supportive. I love school and I want to become an accountant and be somebody in life,” 

she explains.

Tete who came from South Sudan with her father in 2016 continued with her primary six and primary seven education while in Uganda. Her father returned to South Sudan in 2017 to take care of her three other elder siblings.

In the settlement which she calls home, Tete says many girls have dropped out of school mainly because of failing to manage their menstruation periods, pregnancy, lack of school fees, being household heads and lack of income among the parents. She adds that most girls find it difficult being family heads and at the same time continue with education.

“At school, they provide us with sanitary pads. The school buys and keeps in the store. If any of the girls goes through this experience, they are given the pads. The girls are also encouraged to come and talk to me if they have any problems especially those that are not comfortable to talk to the senior woman teacher or any other teacher,” 

says Tete.

With support from UNICEF and funding from David Beckham Foundation through the United Kingdom National Committee for UNICEF, teachers, school management, learners, parents and community members are supported to establish adolescent responsive learning environment to improve access to education and retention.

The funding from the David Beckham Foundation is also utilized to create awareness and mobilise community leaders and parents to have a positive attitude towards girls’ education and have adequate knowledge on how to support adolescent girls to stay in school. Nearly 18,700 adolescents in school and nearly 1,900 out of school adolescents are benefiting from the support. Danish Refugee Council is the implementing partner for these interventions.

Tete revealed that in South Sudan, secondary education is not prioritized as most of the children drop out in primary. She was able to continue with her secondary education in Uganda having received a scholarship from the Catholic Church in Adjumani.

“One day I was in church and the priest announced that they would want to pay for bright children who don’t have parents or guardians to pay their school fees. Me and other girls who perform well were selected and the church pays our school fees and also provides the scholastic materials. My father cannot pay for me because he doesn’t have enough money. The little he gets, he is using it to pay for my elder siblings in South Sudan,” 

Tete says.
adolescent development, vocational training
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Abdul

She adds that whereas the father is not paying her fees, he always advises her to stay focused. “I believe in hard work and focusing on my education,” Tete says.

At school, Tete and all the 547 pupils, majority of the South Sudanese are able to enjoy a meal. Each student brings maize flour, beans, cooking oil and sh10,000 ($2.7) per term to support the provision of meals.
When a team from UNICEF visited the school to document Tete’s progress in school on April 17, 2019, it was the day for a special diet. All the students were served with corn meal, locally known as posho, beans and meat.

Jeska Beruchan, the school’s deputy head teacher says they serve meat twice a term. A school term in Uganda lasts for about 3 months.

She noted that Tete is so eloquent, is never afraid of anything and has good leadership skills. To ensure that Tete gets time to revise her books at home, the school called Tete’s father to come to Uganda to engage the siblings especially the boys to support her with house chores.

“The culture in South Sudan is that all chores must be done by the girls. We have interacted with Tete’s father who has talked to the siblings about house chores and they are now helping out,” Beruchan reveals. Two of Tete’s siblings at the settlement are boys while two others are girls.

UNICEF Uganda/2019