Navigating Student Motherhood in a Precarious Urban Context: Perspectives from Higher Education in Uganda

This paper reports findings of a study on young mothers living in Uganda’s poor urban areas which have been politically labeled as informal settlements and therefore not eligible for social services delivery. Although 59% of all school dropouts in Uganda are due to young motherhood, the national education policy, and practice automatically exclude young mothers. Past studies on student motherhood addressed student mothers of all ages, and were not focused on poor urban communities. The qualitative study involved young female participants enrolled in institutions of higher learning aged, between the 17 and 25 and investigated the magnitude of their marginalization and exclusion. Study participants were purposively selected using snowball technique. Data were collected using life history interviews and observation. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and thematic analysis was done. The key themes are the context of urban poverty and student motherhood, lack of counseling services, poor law enforcement, and abandonment. The paper discusses how the young women navigate motherhood and education, thereby advancing the discourse on student motherhood in precarious educational contexts of urban poverty.