Moroto School Stuck with Survivors of Forced Marriage

The management of Lia primary school in Katikekile sub-county in Moroto district is stuck with three girls who escaped from forced early marriages. The three young girls aged between 13 and 16 are currently taking refuge at the school after surviving being married off to old men their parents chose for them.

Early and forced marriages are common in Katikekile sub-county where girls are traditionally seen as a source of bride price for their parents. Patricia Lokeris, not her real name, 13, one of the victims, says that she was studying at Musupo primary school in P4 at the time her aunty attempted to marry her off to a UPDF soldier.

The orphaned girl says that she has been getting rumors from the neighbors that her aunt was conniving with some UPDF officer to marry her. She said the officer kept on bribing her auntie with money and buying alcohol to convince her to get married to him.

Lokeris says that she saw the officer coming to visit the aunt and the neighbors advised her to hide because they had planned to carry her on that fateful day. According to the teenage girl, she broke down in tears pleading with her aunty to give her time to study so that she can have a better life in vain. As a result, she decided to hide in the neighbor’s house until the next day when she escaped to Moroto town where she had another relative before she proceeded to a nearby school for protection.

Anna Koryang, not her real name, 15, is from Kakingol parish. According to Koryang, she was up locked in a room by her parents who called a man they had chosen to marry her. Koryang said she was saved by a Village Health Team member who went to their home asking for her to help him fill out certain forms. 

In the process, she managed to escape and fled to Lia primary school, which is about 40 kilometers away where her friend was studying. ‘’I came here without anything, luckily enough my friend was in the boarding section and she welcomed me, we stayed here for three days but other pupils identified me and I was reported to the teacher’’ she said.

Koryang said she was called to the office and explained her ordeal to the head teacher who understood her problem and permitted her to start attending classes. She also revealed that she is the last born of eight girls and has been watching all her elder sisters being married off at about 14 to 16 years of age.

Jimmy Opolot, the deputy head teacher of Lia primary school acknowledge receiving the victims of child marriage, saying the school is taking care of them. Opolot says the school is currently hosting three girls who have gone through different situations of forced marriages from various villages.

Rukiya Marijan, the head teacher of Lia primary school noted the school is a haven for many survivors of forced child marriages and they are trying their best to give them education, accommodation, and counseling to help them overcome trauma.

She said teachers are carrying the burden of adopting survivors of forced marriages since they also have their own families to look after. Marijan says the girls are not willing to go back home for holidays and this is worrying the teachers because they have limited resources to look after the victims.

Simon Opolot, the head teacher of Musupo primary school says that early marriages have affected school enrollment, especially, on the side of girl children. Opolot said they register a large number of girls in the lower classes but when it reaches the upper, the number starts dropping as many girls are married off.

Joseph Onyang, the Katikekile sub-county chief observed that many young girls of school-going age are forced into marriage before completing primary education.

Onyang attributed the rampant cases of child marriages to poverty, bad cultural beliefs, and social pressure, which can only be addressed through community empowerment. He said they have plans to intensify community sensitization on the dangers of early marriages and encourage parents to value girl child education.

According to the information obtained from FIDA, child and forced marriages are still rampant in the Karamoja sub-region with Moroto, Amudat, Nakapiripirit, and Napak being the worst hit.

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