Last Updated on: 18th September 2023, 05:41 pm
Adjumani | Alim Dau Dut, 19-year-old is a refugee from Block E, plot 29, Pagirinya refugee settlement in Adjumani district. She was first brought to Nyumanzi reception centre and later transferred to Pagirinya refugee settlement.
Alim, who dropped out of school in 2022 because of being abused by a teacher, now has become a mother of one kid.
She came to Uganda in 2016 with her mother, father and two of her other sisters. Dut came from Wao, South Sudan. According to her, it was 1 p.m. when the war was intensifying and they had to plan to flee.
Their father was with them, she said, but as the bullets increased, their father escaped to the nearby bush and stayed for one week, adding that they thought their father was killed. Equally, their father was also searching for them thinking they were also killed.
Later on, they reunited after one week. “Our father wanted to take us to the village, but my mother disagreed saying on the way we would meet the rebels who would kill us and instead called for our uncles who were staying in Nimule border town.
“So we moved from Wao to Bulia, from Bulia we reached Juba, from Juba we proceeded to Nimule and from Nimule finally to Dzaipi sub-county in Adjumani district.”
Alim Dut came to Uganda when she was in primary three and said life was very hard because they reached when learners were already in the third term.
She was taken to one of the community schools, Tandala Primary School where learners were learning under trees.
The 19-year-old joined school and they were teaching them. One day when it rained heavily, the heavy wind blew off the roof of their grass-thatched house.
Why she was frustrated from school
“My books were washed by rain and became wet, when I reached school we were given some exercise, I did my work and when my book was taken for marking, the teacher abused me saying ‘this behaviour of cows’, I told him, ‘Sir, the wind blew our house and that is why my books are wet’.”
She decided to stay home and the mother noticed and asked her why she had not gone to school when pupils were for exams, she told the mother “Never will I go back to the same school”.
The mother who loved her so much, in 2017 decided to take her to a private school, Ray Valley primary school to continue with her learning. The mother could still not manage to pay her fees.
In 2019, she shifted to Pagirinya One primary school until 2020, which was before the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My dream was to become a nurse so that I will be treating my people. I used to challenge myself, ‘If other ladies can work in offices why not me?’ ‘I wanted to work in an office so that I could also employ housemaids to work for me’,” she said.
“I got pregnant in 2022, the reason why I got pregnant was when I dropped in P6 due to Covid-19. I told my sister who is now working to take me back to South Sudan so that I can join a school, but when they refused, I got frustrated,” Dut added.
One year after giving birth to a baby boy, Alim Dut said she regretted her actions saying life has become hard. “Raising a child is hard. It is hard to buy medicine when a child is sick, when the child would cry I would also break and start crying.”
Alim is now advocating first to her immediate sisters, telling them she has not got any benefit from getting pregnant. She is instead looking for an opportunity to go back to school such that she can continue to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
“I approached my mother asking her to send me back to school, unfortunately, my mother is an able to send me back to school, and my mother has been getting money by selling part of our food ratio,” Dut said.
Apart from her sisters, Alim has also gone ahead through the Adolescent Girls in Crisis (AGIC) program that is being implemented by Plan International. She has become an ambassador, trying to encourage young girls in the settlements to remain in school and abandon sexual relationships.
She is now encouraging those who complete primary school to continue and go to another level so that they will not go through the same conditions she is experiencing.
Challenges in her advocacy work
Alim Dau Dut has faced a lot of challenges in her attempts to advise and advocate for young girls. She said she gets a lot of resistance from some of the girls she has met.
“Some of the girls could take my advice while others could despise me saying, ‘These Africans, if they try something they now say that don’t do this and that.’ Others would even want to fight me.”
The partners supporting her advocacy
Proscovia Akello Atare, the project officer of the Adolescent Girls in Crisis, said the three-year project is being implemented in Adjumani in three settlements of Pagirinya, Boroli and among the host communities.
“We identified adolescent girls, boys and young mothers to work with. We identified the beneficiaries together with the leaders at the settlements and local council chairpersons, and we targeted the three settlements due to the large number of refugees they host and the alarming number of teenage pregnancies”
She added: “We have realised that the approach is working because already, we have child mothers who are becoming role models because they talk to their peers. We also support them with sanitary pads, soap and other items that are necessary for girls.”
What do people in government say?
Francis Dipio, the community-based and senior probation officer of Adjumani acknowledged that the cases of teenage pregnancy in the district have remained high, especially in refugee-hosting sub-counties of Dzaipi is hosting Pagirinya, Pakele sub-county that is hosting Boroli and Ayilo refugee settlements and Ukusijoni sub-county where Maaji refugee settlement is located.
“At least we get two cases of teenage pregnancy reported to us while the majority of the cases are not reported. In a month, we now record up to 20 cases of domestic violence. We have recorded increased cases of theft (8 cases in a month) just because most of the parents have forgotten their mandate of taking care of the children,” Dipio explained.
Dipio emphasised that “if parents do not provide for their girls, the young girls will continue to be exploited by those who can provide for the young girls who ended up being impregnated”.
Akuku Philip Kayakaya, the principal District Education Officer said from the time of Covid-19, the government introduced a guideline called the re-entry policy, a policy meant to bring back girls who got married at a tender age back to school.
“Last year, 165 teenagers who got married from both primary schools and secondary schools were brought back to school and this year we also managed to bring back 217 girls also both from primary and secondary,” Akuku said.