Rising Hope: Seeing young mothers returning to school
Ms. Jane Moyo Samuel Lurate (19) holds a banner written ‘Seven Years after young mother returns to school’ (photo by Moses Gum Degur/Juba, South Sudan):
By Moses Gum Degur
Despite the current food crisis and economic decline exacerbated by years of conflict where many children remain at risk of starvation as a result of poverty, there is rising hope of drop out school children and young mothers returning to school.
In crisis situations, many parents collect bride prices from their daughters and forced them to early marriage. In South Sudan girls are taken as assets, sold or married off in order to get something for survival.
The increased hunger and poverty forced some young girls into early marriage, drop out in school and seek ways of continued existence, a shift which fainted opportunity for girl’s future.
Jane Moyo Samuel Lurate (19) is a young mother who returned to school after getting married off to a husband at the age of 16.
She said she dropped out of school because she was confused by her boyfriend while underage.
Jane said she got married while on her academic journey from primary six to seven.
“Initially I was confused by a boyfriend while in school. I dropped out of school when I became pregnant in 2015 and later gave birth to a baby in 2016,” she said.
“My dropping out of school was not only the confusion by my boyfriend but also coupled with other situations. I was not interested in studies, that was why I decided to marry,” Jane expressed.
According to the South Sudan constitution under the Child Act 2008, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 years and above. The violators of this act are not brought to book.
Despite the laws in South Sudan, however, UNICEF estimates that 52 percent of the girls are married before their 18th birthday, the fifth-highest rate of Child Marriage in the world.
The 19 year old mother said she decided to return to school to continue with her studies.
“After having felt and witnessed the challenges facing mothers at home, I felt it was a privilege to have my education continued. This is simply because, education is the only key to life,” she said.
In volatile places like South Sudan, majority of the population got traumatized, many young mothers experienced domestic violence and are taken out of school. Often, they are married to older men and with limited economic opportunities and are more likely to live in poverty.
Jane Moyo is currently in her primary eight at Kuggi Primary school here in Juba.
She said her decision to abandon the husband and return to school was that she did not want to be a victim of social degradation, who often faces uncertainty and frightening futures.
“I don’t want to be a victim of poverty again for the rest of my life. I can say enough is enough for the unwise decision I made before by dropping out of school and marry at an early age. Now I will continue with my school”, Jane articulated.
She said her mother and uncle both agreed with her decision to leave her husband and continue with education since she is still young and that she may remarry later after school if she wished.
“I am very grateful to my parents for supporting my education. I will not let them down again. I must make sure that I complete my school,” she said.
Jane said her baby remains under the care of her mother and the uncle.
With the introduction of GESS’ programme of Cash Transfer to girls in South Sudan, Jane became one of the beneficiaries who has benefited from the funds since she re-joined school.
The Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is transforming lives of a generation of South Sudanese girls by giving them incentives to increase their access to quality education.
She said the Cash Money received from GESS programme helped her solve her financial problems including buying some clothes for her baby.
“GESS Programme has helped us a lot, especially girls. The incentives help in solving our personal needs like buying scholastic materials, pants and sanitary pads,” said Jane.
She said the money keeps her to stay in school because with it she is able to get her personal needs which according to her, she was not getting before.
“I am really very happy with GESS for introducing this programme. If it is not because of the support we are getting, most of us would have left the school.”
She asked the GESS, Government and the education partners to continue supporting girls’ education in South Sudan.
Jane urged parents to send their daughters to school and support the children of those who once became pregnant.
“I encourage our parents to support their daughters who once became pregnant and send them for studies. The children of those daughters who were early married off need to be supported,” she said.
She advised girls not to think of boyfriends but should remain committed to their studies.
“My dear colleagues don’t listen to tricks of boys. They play with people’s minds and at the end of the day, they don’t take care of you,” Jane said.
She said she has learned a bitter lesson of being a mother and have to advise fellow colleagues not to do the same.
The 19 year old Jane called on the government and the International actors to provide legal assistant to girls that are victims of conflict.
In South Sudan conflict has been the largest driver of violence with most children often witnessing or experiencing horrific violence, exploitation and abuse.
Due to prevalence of crisis, families don’t have the ability to grow or purchase food. This made children vulnerable and remain at risk children.
Jane in a drama class with fellow colleagues of Kuggi Primary school at GESS’ achievement celebration in Juba 5th July 2018 (photo by Moses Gum):