The State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysestom Muyingo on Friday maintained that government is still committed to its pledge of providing free sanitary pads to address one of the challenges leading to school dropout rate of girls.
The minister said this while speaking to journalists at the climax of the manifesto week where government ministries, departments and agencies have been accounting for their one year in office.
While campaigning in 2015, President Yoweri Museveni promised that once he is re-elected, his government would give offer sanitary pads to adolescent girls.
However, the First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also the education minister, recently said that the government does not have the money to fulfill the pledge; triggering criticism from opposition politicians and some civil society organizations.
Muyingo however says that government has continued to encourage and sensitize parents and other stakeholders about the need to provide free sanitary pads to the girls in their communities.
He says that as an intervention, government has provided training to 400 schools on promotion of Menstrual Hygiene Management in 8 districts of northern Uganda to teachers and learners; and provided the Menstrual Hygiene Management manuals to 900 schools to guide teacher training on menstrual hygiene management.
“We have trained a total of 240 teachers on gender responsive teaching methodologies and mentored them on how to handle learners and sexual maturation in Abim and Nakapiripit; and, engaged 81 district officials in Karamoja region including 59 males and 22 females,” Muyingo said.
Tonny Mukasa-Lusambu, the assistant commissioner for primary education said that a total of 900 Senior Women and Men teachers (530 Senior Women Teachers and 375 Senior Men Teachers from 60 schools had been trained including 75 district officers from 16 district as well as 900 Head teachers on Gender Responsive Pedagogy, Menstrual Hygiene Management, Building Positive and Supportive Learning Environment.
He added that the ministry had asked all schools to use part of the money for the capitation grant to buy some sanitary pads for emergency at schools for pupils who experience their menstruation for the first time.
Despite this directive, schools have over the years complained of low Government funding for free primary education and sometimes delayed release of the funds. The Capitation Grants are computed based on school enrollment with each pupil getting sh7,560 a year in addition to a block grant of sh100,000 per term.
According to the Capitation Grants expenditure guidelines, 50% of the grant is supposed to be used on instructional materials; 30% on co-curricular activities (sports, clubs etc.); 15% on school management (school maintenance, payment for utilities such as water and electricity); and 5% on school administration.
Research by Build Africa, a British registered International development charity whose charity works are to improve access to quality education in rural Kenya and Uganda on girl child retention in schools and completion revealed that most young girls are forced to drop out of school due to lack of washrooms, lack of sanitary pads and bullying by peers when they start their periods.
On average, the report revealed that of the 80 days allocated to a school term, 29.7% of the adolescent girls said they miss a minimum of four days per cycle. This also includes examination days, important class presentations and the introduction of new topics.
Another 24.3% of the girls spoken to admitted to being stigmatized whenever they soiled their uniforms and as a result, they opt to stay at home until after their period. Despite this, government in the financial year 2017/18 has not allocated resources to address the issue.