Ugandan child mothers get a second chance

This is a cross-post from World Vision U.S. by Simon Peter Esaku, World Vision Uganda, and Rachael Boyer

Franka, 17, sits with her baby, Sharon, in front of the Pader Girls Academy. Photo | Simon Peter Esaku/World Vision

She was born at the Kalongo Hospital in northern Uganda in 1992. Fifteen years later, Franka Aneno was back in the same ward, this time to deliver her own child — a baby girl named Sharon.

What Franka had thought was only a little adventure with a boyfriend became a life-changing situation. “When my mother found out I was pregnant, she whipped me,” Franka recalls. Then, adding insult to injury, Franka’s head teacher expelled her from school.

After her baby was born, Franka lived at home with her mother and 10-year-old sister, helping grow food and caring for baby Sharon. A Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, killed Franka’s father in 2003.

Franka's ray of hope

When her baby was about a year old, Franka found out about a program that might help her continue her education. It gave her a reason to hope. “In April [2008], I applied for World Vision to give me a scholarship to learn vocational skills in Pader Girls Academy,” says Franka. “My application was successful, and I reported to the academy in August.”

With Sharon securely wrapped to Franka’s back, the young mother explains, “I am learning tailoring and knitting, and I will complete my course in May this year.”

A school of opportunity

The academy’s headmistress, Catherine Anena, founded the school in March 2007. “The academy is born out of the desire to help formerly abducted girls and child mothers continue education or acquire skills for self-sustenance,” explains 27-year-old Catherine, an ambitious university graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in education.
Catherine reports that about 200 girls attend high school completion classes there, with some 65 girls also learning vocational skills in tailoring, knitting, and bakery.

About 50 babies also live on campus, sharing dormitory beds with their mothers at night, and playing in the on-site day care center during the day. The young mothers have the freedom to breastfeed their babies during class or tie them to their backs and bring them along.

World Vision's Rebound Project

Franka, right, learns how to use a knitting machine to efficiently make sweaters. Photo | Simon Peter Esaku/World Vision

Franka is one of 15 girls who are receiving scholarships through World Vision to learn vocational skills at the Pader Academy. The scholarships are funded through World Vision’s Rebound Project, to help promote peace through education in a country that is just starting to rebuild after a 20-year civil war. In basketball, the word rebound means a second chance to score. It was chosen for this project to signify the second chance that education gives to the war-affected children in northern Uganda.

“The project pays tuition fees for the 15 girls,” explains Paddy Mugalula, who manages the program. World Vision’s Rebound Project also just completed funding two dormitories that can accommodate 400 students at a vocational training institute and a technical institute in the Pader district. Additionally, it provided workshop tools for job training.

Thankful for the opportunity she’s had through World Vision, Franka is looking toward the future, with a dream, a plan, and the skills to make it happen. “After my training,” says Franka, “I want to make clothes and sweaters to support myself and my child.”

World Vision

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