Mary's life changed forever when she left school at the age of 14.

By Assumpta Nangonzi, WRA Citizen Journalist

Kampala, Uganda - At 14 years of age, Mary Magdalene Adoo’s dream of becoming one of the best teachers in Dokolo District hit a snag. Her parents could no longer afford to pay her tuition. However, all was not lost. Mary got an offer from a trusted family friend to become a house-help in Kampala. With this opportunity, Mary hoped that she would work for two years and save enough money to go back to school. She was excited and she embraced this opening with both hands.

Before leaving for Kampala, Mary’s father beseeched her again and again to avoid getting into any form of intimate relationships with city boys. He described them as psychos that are always high on drugs and alcohol. “They are wasted children who use girls and dump them, stay away from them and remain focused on your dream,” he vehemently advised Mary.

While in Kampala, one of Mary’s duties included buying food stuffs from the market. One day as she was returning to her master’s home, she met a gentleman identified as Peter. He asked to have a brief chat with Mary and eventually exchanged contacts. Although Mary did not have a phone, she stealthily used her master’s phone to communicate with her new friend. Peter was not any way close to what Mary’s father had described. He was much older than Mary, and a teacher by profession. What a coincidence! He had already achieved what Mary was still working towards. He presented himself as a very responsible man and Mary was elated.

The two lovers, Mary and Peter, kept communicating and this went as far as Mary paying Peter a visit one evening.  “I lied to my boss that I was going to visit a sick friend, which she consented to. On arriving at Peter’s home, he welcomed me warmly with a glass of juice and cake for the two of us. This amused me so much that I felt provoked to revenge by fixing him dinner while telling him that a man of his age cannot get fully satisfied with only cake and juice. After our dinner of Matooke (plantain) and groundnut sauce, Peter was very happy. He started rocking my hands and soothing and caressing my entire body. The feeling was irresistibly good. Before I knew it, we were in Peter’s bed locked into each other with our clothes off, and this was followed by fun-filled sex. This is not right, I thought quietly, and started panicking. I want to go home now, my boss will be worried. Peter did not stop me, but escorted me up to our home. We parted in love, though I never stopped feeling scared and worried. I was worried about getting pregnant since this was the first time I had ever been intimate with a man.”

Three weeks later, Mary’s instincts were confirmed right. She started developing signs of pregnancy as found to be true by the doctor through a pregnancy test at the health facility close to their home. Mary’s master was too disappointed to continue employing her. She asked Mary to invite the father of the baby to their home. Mary did not hesitate. She ran very fast to Peter’s home. Her sweetheart would of course be there for her.

But alas! When Peter learned of this misfortune, he denied the pregnancy and kicked Mary out of his house, accusing her of being a liar and prostitute that wanted to rob him of his money and destroy his marriage.

“I just couldn’t believe it! Peter suddenly turned against me. He was abusing me and pushing me out of his home. He wasn’t the man that spoke to me so sweetly and tenderly anymore. I got so angry and went back to my master in tears. But she too was so angry and disappointed with me she couldn’t contain it.”

Mary’s pregnancy was progressing well until one morning when she woke up to a pool of blood on her bed. She was 7 months pregnant. Filled with a lot of fear, Mary yelled for help. She was rushed to hospital but she continued to bleed terribly until she fainted. Mary received a blood transfusion, but she had lost her baby.

“It was the scariest moment of my life. The whole experience was so painful and traumatizing that every time I remember it, I start shivering. I had lost my dream of becoming a teacher because of this pregnancy and I had also lost the pregnancy,” she cried.

Upon discharge, Mary had nowhere to go. “I just could not face my parents,” Mary admits. As luck would have it, she learned about a waitress job at Palm Country Inn in Dokolo District.

Mary feels she does not have any hope of going back to school because she is too big to fit in her last class now. However, she has stern advice for young girls out there to focus on their dreams.

“No matter how beautiful your new life may be, you can never feel satisfied as you would have been had you achieved your dream,” she says.

Mary thinks the government can do a lot to abate the spate of teenage pregnancy in young girls by improving Universal Secondary Education so that children are not forced to look for better schools that they may not be able to afford. She also wants the government to support teenage mothers to go back to school.

At the moment, the 17-year-old is known by the patrons of Palm Country Inn and all the people in its neighborhood as a very hardworking, focused and passionate waitress. While they are surprised by her drive and serious work ethic at such a tender age, Mary says she still wants to achieve something for herself. Her dream is to become a teacher.