UNOC Empowers Girls Ahead of Increased Oil and Gas Activities in the Albertine Graben

LIKE many school-going girls in Uganda, Susan Ahumuza faces challenges, which could deny her reaching the education summit.

Early, unplanned pregnancies, lack of school fees and the lure of older men with money are some of the stumbling blocks along her path.

Ahumuza is among hundreds of students at Butiaba Seed Secondary School in Buliisa.  Buliisa is one of two districts the Tilenga oil and gas project straddles.

As activities in the oil and gas sub-sector intensify, following the final investment decision by the joint venture partners, there’s concern about the impact these activities might have on the girl-child.

The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2011 indicates that 49% of women aged 20-49 were married before they were 18, while 15% were married by the age of 15. This is also closely linked with a high rate of teenage pregnancy (24%), among the highest in Africa, according to UNICEF Uganda.

Additionally, practices such as underage marriage, poor sexual reproductive education and disempowerment of girls are rife in Buliisa and nearby districts.  

A population increase, resulting from the on-going development and construction at the key oil and gas projects, could exacerbate this situation.

Cognisant of potential challenges and the risks posed by increased oil and gas activity, the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) has started a campaign on keeping the girl-child in school.

The UNOC team was led by the CEO, Proscovia Nabbanja, who visited six schools on February 22nd and 23rd, 2022. The schools were Butiaba Seed Secondary School (Buliisa), Kiziranfumbi Secondary School (Kikuube) and Buseruka Secondary School (Buseruka).  The other schools were Duhaga Secondary School (Hoima), St. Thomas Secondary School (Hoima) and Kigorobya Seed Secondary School.

Her mission was to equip, prepare, and empower students especially girls with the skills and knowledge needed to resist distraction and remain in school.

Key in her message were the “4Ds” namely desire for learning, dedication, determination, and discipline. These, she stressed, were crucial if students were to complete school.

According to Nabbanja, ensuring that girls complete school, is a priority for UNOC because no society would achieve its full potential if its students, especially girls are overlooked.

“We need to intentionally place girls at the centre of the economy’s development or else we will lose opportunities to maximize our impact across all the sectors,” Nabbanja argued.  

As she spoke, Nabbanja had up close interaction with the students, ensuring effective communication.  The key highlight of this interaction was the handover of netballs and books titled “The Girl-Child: Growing Into A Woman Of Value”. The book highlights the difficulties girls face, how they could avoid them and examples of successful women in Uganda.

Following the pep talk, the students appreciated Nabbanja and her team.

"We thank UNOC for their kind words of encouragement and motivation,” excited Ahumuza stated.

“We have several challenges as school going children in Bunyoro region but with the support of the oil companies, we hope to have a better education and improved standard of living.”  

Samuel Kakande, a student at Duhaga Secondary School, concurred.

He said, “We are happy with this program because if all of us, including our sisters and friends remain in school, it would enable us to get opportunities in the future and be successful in life.”

“It will also change the lives of many, many families”.  

“I am thankful that my parents have fought to find the means to send me and my seven siblings to school. I am now encouraged, and I am hopeful to stay and excel in school so that I can make them proud,” said Jenny Namakula, a student at Kigorobya Seed Secondary School.  In all, Nabbanja met with over 4,000 students in the six schools.

The Buseruka Secondary School Headteacher, John Bosco Tibaijuka appreciated UNOC’s effort, saying the Company was the first entity to visit and deliver such to deliver such messages to students. END