For many young girls, continuing their education after an early-age pregnancy presents considerable challenges. Some abandon their studies, fearing the strain of studying and raising a child in an unsupported environment, while others resort to abortion.
Donathe NIYODUSENGA, currently a third-year student at the University of Rwanda (UR), Huye Campus in the College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), shares her story. She became pregnant at the age of 20 while in her second year of study. Since then, she has faced overwhelming difficulties.
“I was 20 when I became pregnant and lacked the means to provide for myself. Approaching delivery, I temporally halted my studies and returned home to my parents to care for my newborn and myself. The situation became increasingly challenging as the child’s father offered no support. While my mother was understandably upset, she could only assist me despite not being affluent,” shared NIYODUSENGA.
Often, unwanted pregnancies force girls to relinquish their dreams, grappling with the unanticipated responsibility of raising a child. Some opt for illegal abortions, a perilous decision.
Despite the tremendous challenge of continuing her education after childbirth, Donathe persisted. Her dreams remained intact despite the hurdles induced by an unwanted pregnancy.
“After my baby turned six months old, I decided to return to school and pursue my studies. Juggling studies and parenting proved immensely difficult, especially when some of my peers expressed disappointment in seeing me with a child. Yet, this further fueled my determination to prove that I can succeed, even though I felt I had let myself down,” she added.
While Donathe endeavors to both study and raise her child, securing basic needs remains a significant issue. She asserts that finding financial support would greatly assist her in caring for her child and successfully completing her studies.
“Life is an arduous journey; I am burdened. I bear the responsibility for all the needs of my child and myself: rent, school supplies, food, and more. Acquiring these essentials is extremely challenging as the child’s father shows no concern. Moreover, my parents, who lack resources, sometimes rely on me, despite my own struggles. It would bring me solace if someone could offer financial assistance,” she expressed with a heavy heart.
Angelique MUKESHIMANA, a caregiver residing with NIYODUSENGA, shed light on their daily challenges.
“I have lived with Donathe for five months, taking care of her baby. While she attends classes, I stay home with the baby to ensure she can focus on her studies. She toils tirelessly to support us, surviving solely on a living allowance,” mentioned MUKESHIMANA.
“At times, securing basics like food becomes exceedingly difficult. She relies on a monthly living allowance that falls short of meeting all our needs. We constantly pray for providence,” she added.
Drawing from her experience, Donathe NIYODUSENGA advises young girls, especially those in universities, to safeguard their lives and pursue education with a clear goal.
“I tell girls this: ‘Not everything that glitters is gold.’ The most strenuous experience I’ve faced is raising a child at a young age while studying. I don’t wish anyone to endure the struggles I have. My advice to girls is to avoid sexual intercourse, especially unprotected. Additionally, they should pray daily for protection,” she advised.
“For those already pregnant or with babies, please don’t give up. Life doesn’t end there. Do not consider risky abortions; they can lead to severe health complications or even death. Despite this challenging life, I remain undeterred because I know what I want,” she concluded.
Theresie NYIRAHABIMANA, the Dean of Students’ Welfare at the University of Rwanda – Huye Campus, also offers guidance to girls.
“In the university, no one gives you instructions or mandates; we presume you are mature enough to make the right decisions. In cases like this, we send girls home to give birth first before they can resume their studies. We advise you to protect yourself, but since we don’t confine you within the campus, caution is crucial. I stress this particularly to girls who might misconstrue university life as a time for unchecked freedom. ‘No’ means ‘no’; girls, be cautious,” she advised.
According to Annonciatte KANEZA , a Nurse at UR-Huye Campus, the number of unwanted pregnancies among students has decreased compared to the 2020-2021 academic year. However, she advises students, especially girls, to be vigilant.
Frequently, pregnancies result from unprotected sexual encounters, but the consequences may also include sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. This isn’t just a threat to females but to males and families as well. The best preventive measure is to abstain from extramarital sex. When this isn’t possible, protected sex is strongly recommended.
By Delphine NTAGARA