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Peggy Ilukol, the headmistress of Naitakwae says in Karamoja, once a girl reaches 13 years or starts developing breasts, her parents take her out of school and find her a husband who normally pays between cows as bride price. Since the introduction of education by missionaries in Uganda in the s, Karamoja has not readily embraced it. Even the alternative Basic Education for Karamoja has not made much improvement.
As a result, parents were deprived of labour to look after their cattle and some of the children did not return. Because the pen was used to register the recruits, cultural leaders cursed it and everything it represented. The pen was considered some still do a colonial instrument of oppression. Today, the Karimojong continue to view formal education as interfering with their culture.
The boys are also taken out of class to look after livestock but it is the girls that the Karimojong parents have specifically vowed to keep out of classrooms. Girls stay at home to do domestic chores or in odd jobs within town to get money for food. When they turn 13, they are married off. As part of the initiative to entice female children into classrooms, the Government and the World Food Programme WFP introduced a food ratio policy.
However, some parents drag their girls out of class soon after receiving the rations. Their campaign aims at sensitising the Karimojong about the importance of educating the girl-child. It also encourages girls to go to school. By , it was operating in 10 districts in the North and East. On July 21, , it was officially launched in Moroto. In the blistering mid-morning heat, barefoot children with pale faces curiously gather around us.
The majority are wearing uniform and few have tattered ordinary clothes. It is break time. Ilukol, the headmistress, says the school has pupils with about girls. But at break time, there were less than 50 pupils in school.