On Thursday May 1st, Daily Monitor published a letter from a one George Mukasa titled “Pregnant girls: It is about rules.” Anthea Paelo writes in response.
I read your opinion on the suspended girls and would like to respond to your arguments. Your article supported Bishop Barham University College’s decision to suspend the pregnant students and your argument was based on three reasons.
- All rights go with responsibilities: “Would pregnancy, with all its related challenges, be the best state for the girls to be in for them to study well?”
In the discussion, you state that it was irresponsible for girls to “decide” to be pregnant while at school and claim that being pregnancy would affect their studies. While it is true that pregnancy does bring with it challenges, it is possible for the girls to study and be able to pass whilst carrying their children. The responsibility that you argue for in this case would be the duty to pass well. Failure to pass should carry with it, its own price. It is a price that the girls could bear by themselves. Does the university have to spur that failure by suspending the girls?
- The students should learn about discipline: “Discipline is essentially about self-control and self-control is largely about one being able to resist irrational decisions and to postpone gratification to an appropriate and convenient time.”
Herein, you continue to argue that the girls were undisciplined and should have exercised self-control. They should have been able to hold their libidos in check (for a time society and those people for whom the matter does not concern, including yourself, deem to be the right time). What parameters do you use to determine whether a decision is irrational? If a student is above the age of 18, he or she is considered an adult with the choice to make their own decisions regardless of whether they coincide with yours or not. Moreover to repeat a frequently recurring argument, if the suspension was an issue of discipline, the babies’ fathers too are guilty of this same lack of discipline and should face the same punishment.
- Suspension was a suitable punishment: “The culprits punished are helped to know and learn that, one, what they did was wrong and two, that irresponsible behaviour has a price to pay in real life.”
Here I still fail to understand why what they did was wrong. Does it cross any laws? Why is it irresponsible? The smug and patriarchal attitude in the sentences is especially irritating. You effuse a superiority that says you know what is best for these girls not seeming to consider that the girls might know what is best for themselves. Because they did not conform to your way of thinking, they are wrong and should be punished. It is an attitude that is patronizing and diminishes the dignity of the girls. You also suggest that the punishment serves as a deterrent. I beg to differ. What it does, is increase the sense of shame surrounding the girls. It could encourage abortions and in a country where abortions are illegal could result in unsafe procedures leading to further complications and death.
Suspending the girls was a case of policing morals in which case the most likely victims will be women. Everyone fails or falls short of the moral law but because with pregnant girls, it is more visible, they are more likely to be punished for it while other with similar moral failures go unaffected. Morals are also dynamic. To punish one person based on the other’s prejudices, especially when it does not negatively affect the latter, is not only unfair but counterproductive. Uganda needs educated women. Let them study.
Anthea is a reader and writer as well as a Masters student studying Development Economics in South Africa and a Mandela-Rhodes Scholar. She won the 2013 Writivism Short Story Prize, with her story “Picture Frames.” She is currently hanging out with her sister, being a sister. Read more of her on her blog.