The nightmare of raising adolescent girls in a Pandemic; the experience of a refugee mother

By Alex Pithua and James Chanwat

If you have teenagers in the house, you will probably understand that raising them to become responsible adults is an uphill task depending on the level of discipline and manners of the child. 

The coronavirus disease already brought with it a lot of stress, anxieties and to some, depression. 

But one refugee mother, Ms Juma Sekina, a resident of Gulu City braved the burden to add teenagers to her extended family. 

Her household had 40 refugees who are members of her extended family from south Sudan. 

One of her biggest challenge and worries in the lockdown besides providing food for her large family was the nightmare associated with looking after adolescent girls. 

Ms. Sekina’s worried that the school girls could easily mess up their lives as she was busy looking for a means to keep the family stable. 

She was never sure who among them would get pregnant or decide to get married at a young age or get covid-19 as they moved in and out of home. 

“I remember when government started easing restrictions on lockdown, my children went to a neighbor who was put on home quarantine because one person in that family had tested positive and so my family too had to be placed on mandatory quarantine, and here facing stigma was unbearable.” Ms Sekina said to Refugee and Migration Media News.

Juma Sekina, South Sudanese refugee is living in Pece Vanguard Gulu City with 40 members in extended family, Photo by Alex Pithua base in Gulu

When all was over and her children were safe, Ms Sekina said she was grateful to the health teams at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital for the psychosocial support to her family. It took time for her family to heal the stigma, trauma, stress and anxiety.  

In Ariaga parish in Gulu city, another family continues to struggle with teanagers after the lockdown. To be able to provide enough food for the family, Wilson Odrawa, 19, and his family have hired land from the host communities to tilt and plant crops for home consumption. 

“We always miss supper though my parents work hard to feed us. I am worried that my sisters may drop out of school because of lack of school fees. We began growing food crops like potatoes, cassava for consumption, and it’s very unfortunate that my sisters are not going to school due to lack of school fees and Covid 19,” Odrawa expressed his fear.

Odrawa just completed his Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education, a University entry examination and hopes for a brighter future for his family through his education.