May 18, 2024
TEACHERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Karungi Protects Girls From Early Marriage

(This article was first published in the New Vision on July 27, 2022)

By Wilson Asiimwe

In Kigorobya sub county–an area inhabited by diverse ethnic communities involved in fishing and farming activities, keeping a girl child in school is a challenge.

In this rural community in Hoima district, harmful cultural beliefs and stereotypes that perpetuate the ideas that a girl is a source of bride wealth for the family and ought to be married off at puberty are still widespread.

As Rita Ayebale, a resident in Kigorobya, says these harmful ideas have denied many girls the right to education.

“In our community, people still believe that girls have no right to education. If a girl chooses to remain single in her 20s, she gets labelled a prostitute because the common belief is that a girl cannot abstain from sex in her 20s,”she notes.

However, Grace Karungi, a Primary Four class teacher at Kigorobya Muslim Primary School, is fighting these stereotypes and cultural beliefs. She says five girls recently sought refuge at her home after their parents attempted to force them into early marriage. One of the girls, Karungi explains, is a Primary Six pupil at Kigorobya Muslim Primary School.

“I have intervened and sensitised parents against this dangerous practice of marrying off young girls. I have also repeatedly sensitised girls and empowered them to resist getting married off. The fact that they can run away from their parents who want to marry them off shows they are getting empowered,” she adds.

Karungi, a teacher of English and science, says she has also carried outreach visits in the community during school holidays and weekends to educate parents about the importance of educating girls and the harmful effects of forcing them out of school to get married.

“Talking to parents and girls has enabled me to learn a number of things. I have realised many girls are not comfortable to talk to their parents about their lives because these parents do not allow them to make their own decisions. Staying with these girls at my house for days and talking with their parents is empowering them,” she adds.

Karungi says some girls now understand the impact of early marriage on their lives and the number of female pupils dropping out of school to get married is reducing.

“I faced the same challenges while growing up, but I did not drop out of school. I am sure these girls can overcome this as well. I am contributing towards reducing these bad practices. So, I am their role model. The negative attitude towards girl child education among parents are changing,” she says.

Karungi adds that local leaders in the area now invite her to community meetings to educate people about the need to discard traditional beliefs and attitudes which hinder girls from realising their potential.

She notes that she conducts counselling and mentorship sessions for boys and girls, which have helped her understand the challenges adolescent learners face, thereby offering coping tips.

Karungi attending to some of her pupils. She also does community sensitisation and urges parents to keep their daughters in school

“Those who escape from forced marriages suffer from trauma and need healing. So, when they come to me, I counsel and pray with them. But I also look for their parents in order to tackle the problem from its source,” Karungi adds.

She says prayer and counselling sessions equip the girls with knowledge and skills to fight harmful attitudes and stereotypes against them.

Scholarships

In terms of academics, Karungi conducts remedial lessons for some pupils after classes to enable them catch up with their classmates.

She says she recently secured 20 scholarships from SBC, a company which is currently building Hoima International Airport, for girls who completed primary school so they could undertake tailoring and fashion design courses in Hoima.

During the lockdown, Karungi participated in distributing learning materials provided by the Government. When schools reopened, she mobilised parents to send children back to school. However, several girls had babies during the lockdown.

“They were hesitant to return to school after giving birth because of the stigma and stereotypes that girls who have given birth are too old to be in school. Even their parents did not want to send them back to school, but I convinced 15 of them to come back,” she adds.

In terms of co-curricular activities, Karungi says she plays netball with the girls to encourage the learners to develop and nurture their talent.

She adds that she recently mobilised the school’s netball team to participate in the district sports competitions.

Karungi’s Factfile

Grace Karungi
  • 2001: Hoima Public Primary School
  • 2008: Daystar Christian Secondary School, Hoima for O’level
  • 2014: Bulera Core Primary School in Hoima for teacher training course
  • 2016: Started teaching in private schools in Hoima
  • 2019: Recruited by the Government and deployed to Kigorobya Muslim Primary School.

What Others Say

Rita Ayebale, pupil

Karungi is one of the most admired teachers at school. She creates opportunities for us to discuss with her in class and at her house. Without her advice, many girls would be out of school. She even attends to those pupils who do not attend Kigorobya Muslim Primary School because she is passionate and committed to helping them realise their potential. She has educated us on the dangers of early sex and pregnancies.

Janet Birungi, resident

We have confidence in Karungi because of her work. She is doing a lot of transformational work and its impact is visible across Kigorobya sub-county. You might think she is a politician because she is widely known in the community.

Amina Katwesige, teacher

Karungi is one of the most outstanding teachers at school. She was recently recruited by the Government. Because of her keeping in touch with children and their parents, no child has dropped out of school since schools were reopened.

Bernard Kasigwa, spouse

I have on some occasions accompanied my wife on her community outreach visits because these activities sometimes end late. She has encouraged girls to avoid sexual relations with old men.

Johnson Kusiima, principle education officer, Hoima

Karungi is one of the best teachers. She is a visionary who loves her profession.

Ruban Saad, headteacher

She is a committed teacher, innovative, reliable and respectful.

Karungi’s Golden Tips

  • Love your profession
  • Treat all children equally
  • Children enjoy school when they feel loved by teachers
  • Keep in touch with learners and listen to them
  • Treat colleagues with respect

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