Youth and students across Africa take action for girls’ education through UNESCO’s campaign


‘I want to study to be a doctor because I want to save lives’, says Suzan, a secondary school student aged 16 from Kamuli in Uganda. But after becoming pregnant, Suzan was at risk of dropping out of school, and not realizing her dream of becoming a doctor.

During the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda, early marriages and adolescent pregnancies were heightened in different parts of the country. The Uganda Child Helpline, also known as the Sauti (a government service for reporting, tracking, responding and referring child abuse cases), reported 800 cases of sexual abuses between January and May 2020, including increases in adolescent pregnancy. According to the district health officer in charge of maternal and child health, over 3,100 adolescent pregnancies were registered in Kamuli between August 2020 and January 2021.

Youth acting for girls’ education

Global Education Coalition member, the All-Africa Students Union (AASU), together with its partner the 100 Million campaign and in coordination with local authorities, joined forces to expand UNESCO’s Keeping girls in the picture campaign across 29 African countries with the aim to ensure that pregnant girls continue learning, return to school when possible and are able to fulfill their potential. 

Many parents and community members believe education stops for pregnant girls, who are often forced to drop out of school and married off immediately. According to AASU, very few young mothers resume school after childbirth due to stigma, while some schools may not accept to re-enroll pregnant girls even after the Uganda National Examination Body allowed pregnant girls in their final year to register and sit for their final exams.

‘Across the continent, young people are taking initiatives that have long-lasting impact on their respective communities’, says Claudia Quartey, Gender Desk Officer at AASU.

Youth activists and students were engaged in their respective countries, serving as country coordinators for the campaign and committing to hold African governments and decision-makers accountable to provide equal access to education for every girl. A comprehensive training took place to build the capacity of country coordinators on topics such as gender discrimination, community action and local advocacy.

Meet country coordinator Lynda Eunice Nakaibale

‘I wanted to amplify the voices of girls whose education had been put on hold and fight for their equal right to education’, says Lynda, a youth activist aged 26 from Suzan’s district.

Lynda was inspired to join the campaign as a country coordinator because of her own experiences growing up and fighting for her education. ‘My father refused to pay my school fees at age 16 and my mother had to find means of ensuring I continue learning’, says Lynda. ‘He however continued paying school fees for some of my brothers which was unfair. I always felt I deserved to be in school just like my brothers.’