Children aged between 6-18 from the villages of kayonza,bikoma,lwabalanga,kyenda and kiryamakobe all in Nabitakuli parish, butemba sub-county in kiboga district had one big dream. To wear pink shirts, shorts or dresses and walk to Bikoma primary school.

Although we envied the head boy who was the only one allowed to wear shoes, I was happy to be in school. The return of PLE results was the highlight of the year. Parents congratulated the best performers with a wide range of gifts.Sugarcane, mangoes, jack fruits, chicken, sheep and goats were mostly offered. Teachers and parents were always proud of the bright students. 7 years passed by very fast. It was now our turn to sit for the PLE exams. Mathematics was my favorite and the first paper to be examined.

As was the norm after the exam, invigilators instructed us to stand up so we could hand in our papers. On the first line just in front of me was Namukasa; One of the best students in my class. She confidently stood up like the rest of us but the blood stains on her dress attracted everyone’s attention. Whispers and giggles overshadowed the room. One boy from across the room teasingly sang a brides song directly sending a message that Namukasa was ripe and ready for marriage. We all had learnt about menstruation and we knew She wouldn’t survive the school holiday. Namukasa didn’t survive the shame and embarrassment from her fellow pupils to begin with. She disappeared that day and never sat the rest of the exams.

I was the best candidate of our year with a first grade. Parents, Teachers and many people from all corners of the sub-county showered me with gifts. This time with cows and money because it was the first time in the history of the school to get a first grade. With the help of my dad I managed to join one of the best schools in the country for my senior one and during my 3rd term holiday of my senior one, I went back to the village for holidays. Two weeks in my holiday, my colleagues told me of a wedding at the neighboring village. Namukasa was the bride. I never attended the wedding but as fate would want it, she later crossed my path ten years later and as old, weary, hopeless and torn as she was, Namukasa’s experience made me wish nothing of the same kind for any other girl in Uganda.

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