KAMPALA, UGANDA – Dorothy Mukisa, 19, stands outside the school gate at Standard High School, a private school on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. She stands tall in her school uniform – a white shirt and maroon skirt – that flatters her slender frame.
Mukisa clutches her schoolbag and speaks shyly about being expelled from her previous school, St. Mathias Kalemba Secondary School in Luwero, a district neighboring Kampala, several years ago after becoming pregnant.
“I got my first pregnancy when I was 13,” she says. “I was in senior two.”
Mukisa says that she hadn’t been able to afford the basic supplies that students need to bring to school. So she decided to find a man willing to provide for her.
“I admired other students,” she says. “They came with enough pocket money to school. I never had enough. Sometimes, things I came with from home like soap and toilet paper would get finished, and I would remain without. I decided to get a man to give me these things.”
She met her boyfriend, 10 years her senior, at a cinema.
“Later, I felt love for him,” she says.
When Mukisa missed her period for two months and began to detect changes in her body, she says she suspected something was amiss. But she convinced herself that she was not pregnant.
Then one day, the female teacher responsible for the welfare of the female students, known within the school as the senior woman, took notice and called Mukisa to the school clinic to take a pregnancy test.
“I said maybe the senior woman was staring at me for my untacked blouse,” she says. “Maybe, maybe. I kept dodging the possibility that I could be pregnant.”
But when the school nurse nodded to the teacher after pressing Mukisa’s stomach during the examination, her heart sank.
“It was then that I got scared,” she says. “I knew I was actually pregnant.”
Mukisa says her classmates treated her disdainfully and hurled insults at her after school authorities expelled her for being pregnant.
“Even my classmates called me a prostitute,” she says. “They shouted at me through the window of the dormitory when I was packing my luggage to leave school. They told me that I was busy sleeping around with men instead of concentrating on my studies.”
Mukisa says she was afraid to tell her parents, who are devout Catholics. When she finally did, they told her to leave their home.
“They said I had embarrassed them,” she says. “My parents were especially disappointed because I am the firstborn and the other four after me are all girls. I heard them say that my behavior might influence my sisters to also get pregnant.”
Mukisa confided in her maternal aunt, who took her into her home in central Uganda and appealed to Mukisa’s parents to forgive their daughter.
Mukisa hid her lover’s true identity from her parents because she was afraid they would have him arrested. Although