Parent drags school to court for expelling pregnant daughter

Busia, (UG):- The community in eastern Uganda’s Busia District have been left bemused after a parent, whose daughter was expelled from school for being pregnant sued the administration over what he described as a violation of his and the daughter’s constitutional rights.

The complainant, Mr David Wafula claims her daughter was sent away from Busumba Primary School while she was in Primary Four after mandatory testing conducted at the school revealed she was pregnant prompting the administration to send her home.

Mr Wafula in his lawsuit jointly filed with Women with a Mission (WWM) a women-led NGO wants the school to compensate him and the daughter general damages for the violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. 

Filed before Tororo High Court in eastern Uganda, Mr Wafula who is seeking at least six declarations in the suit says several of his daughter’s human rights, including the right to privacy, were violated. 

“A declaration that the respondent’s (school) act of mandatory testing of the 3rd applicant (the pregnant pupil whose name is withheld), is a violation of her rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, dignity, equality to education, children rights and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment provided under Articles 21, 24, 27, 30, 34, and 44(a) of the Constitution,” one of the declarations sought by the parent, reads in part. 

“A declaration that the respondent’s act of expelling the 3rd applicant from school as a result of a positive pregnancy test is a violation of her rights to education, dignity, equality, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” he added.  

The unruly parent also wants court to declare that the action by the school to subject his daughter to a mandatory pregnancy test without the consent of her parents, was a violation of her right to be cared for by her parents provided for under Article 34(1) of the Constitution. 

According to court documents seen by this publication, the girl, whose names are withheld for being a minor, underwent a mandatory pregnancy test carried out at the school in September 2023, in which she was discovered to be pregnant. 

The 17-year-old girl says the pregnancy test was done through extreme manual kneading or physical pressing of her lower stomach, which action she argues in the lawsuit amounted to cruel treatment. 

“…The actions of and omissions of the respondent (school) caused the 2nd and 3rd applicants (father and daughter) humiliation, psychological and emotional pain, immense stress, anxiety, and loss of education and its associated lifetime opportunities,” reads in part the suit filed before the Tororo High Court 

The father of the victim also claimed that the expulsion of his daughter from school had an adverse effect on her mental health. “She has since lost self-confidence, developed a feeling of shame, anxiety and depression, which we fear as the family, may have long-lasting effects on her life in future,” he said. 

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Wafula adds that the expulsion of his daughter ruined her career and future, reasoning that she was a promising child before all this happened.  “Nobody knows who she was going to be but from her performance in class, she was a very promising girl with a bright future but the school has now ruined it,” he says. 

Ms Betty Balisalamu, the Executive Director of WWM, said during the process of being subjected to a manual mandatory pregnancy test, the victim confessed to having gone through extensive pain, shame, stigma, and humiliation. 

“The experience of being forced to take a pregnancy test has led to her emotional distress and psychological trauma,” she said., adding that there is a need to nullify certain provisions within the revised 2020 Guidelines on the Prevention and Management of Teenage Pregnancies in School Settings. 

“These provisions are not only derogatory but also contravene the constitution and violate numerous human rights, particularly against pupils who have been unjustly expelled from school due to pregnancy,” she said. 

“These violations include mandatory pregnancy testing and mandatory maternity leave, among others,” she added.

When contacted for a comment on the legal battle with the parent, Busumba PS Headteacher, Mr Vincent Jamori, denied the allegations of having expelled the victim and said that she reported for Term Three with the pregnancy and that the school management accommodated her, including allowing her to sit her promotional exams. 

“What I know is that the girl’s father even came to the school asking for a letter proving that his daughter was studying in Busumba Primary School; which I did because I understand the matter was reported to the police but what happened; I don’t know. However, the school did not expel the pupil,” Mr Jamori said. 

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The head teacher said being a professional teacher and parent, who is acquainted with the law, he couldn’t deny the victim her right to education. 

He said the victim could have felt out of place in the school and just vanished since she had a big belly and was looking different from her peers. 

The Busia Resident District Commissioner, Mr Michael Kibwika, hailed the parents for the action taken. “Much as my office was not informed, I am going to follow it up to its logical conclusion,” he said. 

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