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Helping Acholi kids back into education
We’re helping children back into school and training after they’ve had
their education disrupted by the war. Many were abducted or forced to
flee their homes by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
Many thousands of people in the Acholi region in Northern Uganda had to flee their homes during the 20 year insurgency by the rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
At the height of the conflict 87% of the population of Pader district were forcibly moved into Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps because the government forces could no longer protect them in their villages. It is thought that more than 60,000 children in Uganda were child soldiers.
Since the fighting stopped in 2006 relative security has returned to the region, and 90% of the population has returned to their villages or transit sites. Although Uganda has Universal Primary and Secondary Education (i.e. it is supposed to be free), in practice there are often hidden costs - like books and uniforms - that prevent children from attending school. Family poverty and early marriage or household duties mean that many children drop out of school because they're needed at home. Although enrolment rates are over 90%, only 43% of boys and 27% of girls actually complete Primary school where we work.
What we're doing
Helping 2,000 children afford to attend (and complete) Primary School
We’ve identified 2,000 of the poorest and most marginalised children (orphans, those living with HIV, child headed households etc) from 1,200 households. We’ll be supporting people in those families to earn a decent income so they can afford to send the children to school.
This involves giving training and grants to the parents, siblings (and in some cases the children themselves) to set up their own income generating enterprises. Examples include market stalls, bee-keeping, tailoring, livestock and agriculture production.
Improving the quality of education and completion rates in Primary Schools in Pader
We’re training teachers in parts of the curriculum they’re not so familiar with, and also on issues like child protection. And we’re also training the local Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) to increase their skills in governing and running the schools properly.
Since teacher absenteeism is a big obstacle to getting a quality education (and there’s only an average of 1 teacher for every 100 pupils anyway), we’re using an innovative mobile phone system whereby designated students send an SMS message to a centralised database to report on whether their teacher is in school.
Finally, we’re providing additional tuition for pupils who are taking their P7 exams to graduate from Primary School. The free Secondary Education is only available to students who have achieved a pass grade in these exams – but children in the north of the country often miss out because of the low quality of the education available.
Child protection in schools and in the community
We’re organising Child Rights Clubs to empower students to get together and look after themselves. Students can identify cases of neglect or abuse at school or at home. And we’re creating confidential monitoring mechanisms so they can safely report these incidents to a trusted adult who is trained in how best to respond.
Our bi-weekly radio shows are broadcast by local children and raise awareness in the region about chidren’s rights (e.g. the right to go to school, the right to live free from violence or early marriage).
Building a school
The conflict destroyed 76 schools in the region – which are yet to be rebuilt. 47% of the 238 Primary Schools in Pader are still under trees. We’ve helped construct a school in Wol for 500 children (see below). And we're also building some dormitories in Paipir school which will enable more disabled children to attend the school.
Pader Girls Academy
For most girls in Uganda, having a baby means having to drop out of school. Pader Girls Academy was founded to address the need of girl mothers whose education had been interrupted as result of LRA abduction or displacement - which led to early pregnancy for many girls as a result of forced marriage or rape. The school has an onsite crèche so babies are cared for whilst the girls get the opportunity to finish their schooling.
In Uganda there is great stigma associated with children with disabilities and they are more likely to suffer various forms of neglect and discrimination. They're also much less likely to get the opportunity to go to school. Many childhood disabilities occur as a result of preventable causes such as polio, malaria and malnutrition because the war has severly limited access to basic healthcare services.
Our Child Protection Committees have identified 30 children in their communities who were missing out on education simply because of their disability. We’ve enrolled them in Paipir School - the only school in the area that has a specialist unit for disabled children. It provides extra support when needed but also allows the children to learn and play side-by-side with able bodied children.
We’ve helped to build a classroom, a library, a staff room and accommodation for six teachers at a new Primary school on Wol sub-county. The school had the highest drop-out rates in the whole district, and a student:teacher ratio of 100:1 because it was so hard to encourage teachers to work there.
As well as helping to build the school, we’re providing the uniforms and books that enable the children to attend. We bought the community a hydro-form brick making machine to make the bricks for the school construction. They are now using it to make and sell bricks for other construction projects in the area – thus generating a steady source of income for the community.
Photos from the project
It costs just £31 to pay for the books, uniform and fees that enable a child to go to school for a whole year
Lawrence's Dad and siblings were killed by the LRA.
His mother's poverty kept him out of school. We put him back in...