Uganda to Host the Day of the African Child 2024 in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement

Balaam Barugahara, the State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
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By Namutebi Sumayiya

Kiryandongo District has been selected to host the Day of the African Child (DAC), a continental event held June 16th every year, say Balaam Barugahara, the State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Balaam Barugahara, the State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Speaking to Journalists on Wednesday morning at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development headquarters on George Street in capital Kampala, Balaam said the continental commemoration will be held at Panyadoli Self Help Secondary School in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Kiryandongo District.

Over the past three years, Kiryandongo has been one of the most unfriendly districts for children to live in because of rampant rights violations.

‘’ The theme for this year is “Education for children in Africa: the time is now’. Under this theme, each AU member state is expected to share what it has done as well as plans in place to ensure that every child accesses education as a right. Government of Uganda has chosen to maintain the same theme because the country has been selected by the AU to host the continental commemoration.  This means that the rest of Africa will be travelling to Uganda to commemorate the day. An estimated 100 dignitaries, including children are expected to travel to Uganda from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and Chad, among other African countries, for the event’’, said Balaam.

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Last year, Zambia played host while the 2022, 2021 and 2020 editions were held in Lesotho. Chad, Malawi, Ethiopia, Ethiopia and South Africa hosted in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively.  All the eyes of Africa are now on Uganda.

Balaam Barugahara, the State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs during a press briefing at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development headquarters

On 16th June every year, African continent comes together to commemorate the Day of the African Child (DAC). The day was gazetted by the Assembly of Heads of State and leadership of the Organization of African Union (OAU), now African Union (AU), in honour of the children who participated in the 16th June, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.

On that day, in Soweto, South Africa, thousands of black children took to the streets, marching more than half a mile, to protest the inferior quality of education they were receiving, and demanded the right to be taught in their own language.

Previously, they were being taught in Afrikaans, the main language spoken by white people in South Africa. Hundreds of the school children were shot during this march, which resulted in two weeks of demonstrations. Then, during the demonstrations, the apartheid regime killed more than a hundred people, and more than a thousand were injured.

In 1991, the OAU, now African Union (AU), initiated DAC to honour the memory of the victims and in remembrance of the protesters’ courage. Since then, the day has also been used to raise awareness about the need for improvement of education provided to African children.

Every year, the AU, through the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), sets a continental theme from which the different member countries can domesticate according to their situation.

During the commemoration on Sunday, the Ministry of Education and Sports will share how Uganda has performed as a country in regards to the promotion of the right to education.

The foreign delegation will include the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) led by its chairperson. This is the committee mandated by the African Union to monitor the promotion and protection of children’s rights across the continent.

According to the 2022 Annual Police Crime Report, the district recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases in the country at 520 closely followed by Luwero (501).

Kiryandongo also registered the highest number of child neglect cases at 221 and only came second behind Kamuli (174) in defilement cases recorded (151) throughout the year.

The district equally topped in cases of burglary and arson at 145 and 622 cases respectively and featured prominently in the table for child desertion cases, coming fourth with 81.

The Humanitarian Violence against Children and Youth Survey (HVACS) conducted by the Ministry in conjunction with Population Council-Nairobi and OPM in March 2022, also revealed that violence against children is very rife in refugee settings. The survey findings indicated that 42.6% of females and 50.4% of males aged 18-24 living in refugee settlements have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in childhood.

The recently released 2023 Annual Police Crime Report also places Kiryandongo second, behind Tororo, in the highest number of defilement cases reported since 2019. In 2019, 92 cases were recorded in Kiryandongo, 185 in 2020, 132 in 2021, 151 in 2022 and 150 in 2023.

According to Balaam, such violations have a very big impact on education of children and their wellbeing in general. For instance, the high cases of child neglect, could mean that parents are unable to provide basic needs, including school fees and other scholastic materials for children.

Domestic violence, defilement and other crimes, also contribute to school dropouts as children suffer stigma and injuries or get pregnant/married and are unable to continue with their education.

One of the aims of commemorating DAC, is to raise awareness about the need for improvement of education provided to African children. Holding the event in Kiryandongo, therefore, will present an opportunity to rally stakeholders in the district, especially parents, to offer more support with a view of addressing violence, which might ultimately lead to improvement of education outcomes.

According to figures from OPM, Kiryandongo is currently hosting 102,066 refugees and asylum seekers. This number includes over 5,000 new arrivals that came into the country since January 2024 mainly from Sudan and South Sudan. A reasonable number of the refugees includes children whose education has been disrupted by displacement from their home countries and inability to cope with the education system in Uganda mainly because of the language barrier.

Hosting DAC in a refugee settlement is therefore, aimed at promoting inclusive education/programming to address the needs of refugee children according Balaam.

Different activities have been lined up to commemorate the day. Already, sports activities, including football are already ongoing in Kiryandongo to create awareness about the Day and engage parents on child rights.

Parents’ dialogues: Two community dialogues involving parents (one in the Settlement and another in the host community) are to be organized. The objective of the dialogues will be to sensitize parents about the importance of education and how they can play their role to promote it as a child right.

The MGLSD Youth Truck start traversing Kiryadongo communities tomorrow to create awareness about the importance of education and other children rights. The Youth Truck team will also engage communities on other government and partner interventions targeting children while also mobilizing people to attend the commemoration.

On the eve of the commemoration, children will be given an opportunity to share their views about education as a right. They will come up with a position paper containing recommendations on how best their right to education can be promoted. The ‘Speaker’ of the Children’s Parliament will read out the Position Paper before the Chief Guest, representatives of other line MDAs, Development Partners, CSOs, and the AU Secretariat.

As a way of commemorating DAC, MoES has written to all schools across the country to have a poem about the theme read on the assembly on Monday, 17th June, 2024. Entries from selected schools will be received and the top three picked to read their poems during the continental commemoration in Kiryandongo. This is aimed at bringing the children’s right to education to the fore.

Uganda is going to show case its vast efforts in education of its children to the rest of Africa in terms of the legal framework, policies and interventions.

The Government will get an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved in regards to promotion of the right to education.

The commemoration will further present an opportunity to Uganda to highlight the obstacles/violations that children are facing in their daily lives as they try to pursue education. This is likely to attract more global support towards education in Uganda.

It is also an opportunity for all relevant MDAs and stakeholders with a mandate on promoting the right to education of the existing gaps in policy and practice that need to be addressed to attain better education outcomes for Uganda’s children.

The commemoration will act as a moment for Government and its partners to renew and step up their efforts towards the promotion of the right to education for all children.

Through pre-activities, Ugandan children will be empowered with knowledge and confidence to demand their rights including education and motivate them to stay in school until completion. Parents and communities will be mobilized to promote children’s right to education.

The foreign delegation will contribute massively to the tourism and hospitality sector in Uganda.

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