Abduh Grace William, Uganda

The following is an interview by Abdhu Grace William, a refugee and teacher who fled South Sudan and is currently teaching in refugee camps in Uganda.

I have been teaching for 3 months in Uganda. It took me two weeks to get here from South Sudan. I teach about 1,000 boys and girls. One class alone is usually 100 students and above. In a lower class you may find that there are more girls than boys, then when you get to upper classes, you will find that there are fewer girls. In South Sudan, the issue of early marriage is rampant and you find that parents try to marry off the girls and keep the dowry for themselves.

The other teachers and I always talk with girls about staying in school – even the male teachers here are encouraging girls to stay in school. We tell them ‘if you come to school you can make friends even with boys. You will learn from one another’. As teachers, we also discourage them from early marriage and talk about the disadvantages of early marriage. We find that girls who have children at a young age will lack food and face poverty. Girls could even be abandoned when they’re small; girls suffer the most.

Teachers like myself always advise girls to be cooperative at home and at school. We bring the parents to the school and tell them, ‘you should encourage the girls to study from home. Give them a chance to study well so that they will get to the same level of the boys.’

When girls drop out of school, they face poverty. Sometimes you get a girl who wants to study, but the issue is that they lack money. Sometimes a girl will lack sanitary pads and not get it from school. For that reason, the girl will be discouraged from going to school and stay at home. These are basic needs for the girls and it is difficult to survive. This girl will then think of getting married early to a boy who will support her and this is wrong.

I like teaching most but the teaching here is different. The children are overcrowded in the classes and have to share the limited number of textbooks. It’s hard being a teacher here because the class is too big and I’m afraid not every single student understands what I’m teaching because I can’t provide individual attention to them. The ratio of teachers to pupils needs to be moderated so that we as teachers can enjoy our teaching and girls can learn better.

Learn more about Girl Up’s work in Uganda here.