Elvina Cheyech, a 22-year-old Senior Four student at Pokot Secondary School, Amudat District (approximately 420km Northeast of Kampala), last saw her baby boy’s father four years ago. When she told him that he was responsible for the pregnancy, he fled for the hills.
Then at Pokot Girl’s Seed School, Cheyech wasn’t having an easy time. Her peers made fun of her baby bump. The stigma got to her so much that she stopped going to school altogether for about three weeks.
“I didn’t have any fitting clothes so my tummy would protrude in my uniform. The teachers contributed money among themselves and they bought me a maternity dress that fits,” she recalls.
Sadly, delivery was complicated. She was admitted at Moroto Regional Referral Hospital under the care of her mother who taunted her about her runaway ‘husband’.
And without any income, a baby to take care of and a less supportive family, the future seemed bleak.
“I went to my grandmother’s place in Karita Sub-County and lived with her for three months. She was the only one happy to have me,” Cheyech says.
Her grandma brewed local alcohol (waragi) for a living and to survive, Cheyech had to help selling the waragi and raise her child.
Bless the broken road
Along that broken road, Cheyech met a guardian angel, the Head Teacher at Pokot Girl’s Seed School, David Kissa. He demanded to know why she was not studying when the school was just a few metres away.
“I explained my situation to him and he said he could take me to school and that I would not have to pay school fees. All I needed was Ushs. 30,000 ($8) to buy books, soap, pads and a few other materials,”reveals, Elvina Cheyech
Cheyech felt she had already bothered her grandmother enough, but Shs 30,000 wasn’t easy to obtain. She decided to call her baby’s father with the faint hope that he had perhaps had a change of heart.
“He said if he was the father, I should just go to Kapchorwa and we make a family. At that moment, I felt like I could strangle this man if I ever saw him,” she says.
Meanwhile, her grandma combined efforts with David and Cheyech joined Pokot Girls’ Seed School, but would later transfer to Pokot Secondary School where she is about to write her O-Level exams.
Currently, she is a member of the Girls Education Club (GEC), one of the initiatives supported by UNICEF Uganda with funding from Irish Aid. Through this initiative implemented by the Trailblazers Mentoring Foundation (TMF), Cheyech speaks to the girls about dangers of teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
“I tell my sisters not to let their breasts deceive them that they are mature. I encourage them to stay in school and abstain,” she says.
According to Anthony Kapsawani, TMF’s Project Manager in Amudat district, Girls’ Education Clubs in schools with support from UNICEF and Irish Aid works with have succeeded at discouraging teenage pregnancies among students and supporting them to complete their studies.
“One of TMF’s activities is to promote menstrual hygiene management, create awareness of children’s rights and use personal experiences of child mothers in form of dramas and debates to impart important messages into junior students. We have done this in all 15 secondary and primary schools in Amudat,” Kapsawani said.