The meeting was organized by Uganda Debt Network with support from Save the Children-Uganda to disseminate findings of a study conducted in Amuru, Napak and Nakasongola districts as well as promote discussion on issues of child protection and budgeting in Uganda, and ultimately gather recommendations for sharing with duty bearers and the general population to improve the situation of children in Uganda.
Participants were drawn from Achelet Primary School-Napak district, Ministry of Gender, Labour &Social Development, Ministry of Local Government, National Council for Children, National Union of Disabled Persons-Uganda, Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, CSBAG, ACODEV, children from Hillside Primary School, Nalya SS, and Teachers from Buddo and Busega Preparatory School.
Ms. Margaret Atimango, a Child Protection Specialist-SCIU, presented CS concerns on child protection in Uganda and noted that one of the positive steps Government has taken in regard to child protection is banning violence against children especially in schools-in form of corporal punishment but added that this should be done in all settings.
Despite this, violence against children is on the rise with statistics showing that 9,598 cases of defilement were investigated in 2013 compared to 8,076 cases in 2012 and up to 15% children were married off by the age of 15 years.
Out of 13,867 cases of violence against children reported in 2009 through the child helpline, only 4,917 were handled and one of the reasons for this is inadequate resources to respond to the cases.
From the children themselves, 57% said that when they reported cases of violence, nothing was done, 18% missed school as a result of pain inflicted through violence while 4 % required medical attention.
Government has shown commitment to strengthening child protection through enactment of adequate laws, ratifying international instruments and putting in place the necessary institutional framework to implement the legislation, like the National Council for Children, the Family &Children Protection Unit, and Family & Children Court.
The problem however is that these institutions are grossly underfunded understaffed and lack the necessary skills to address their mandate.
Otike Samuel, from Achelet Primary School in Napak District shared his experience and noted that their school shapes them morally and spiritually, the pupils and teachers relate well, they have a suggestion box to express their views and they receive meals at schools. However, their voices are not heard by duty bearers especially in regard to sexual exploitation. He further noted that parents hinder education of their children by retaining the boys at home to graze cattle and marrying of the girls early to get cattle as bride price.
Other challenges he mentioned, which are faced by some of the schools represented at the meeting were;
• Pupils share toilets with teachers,
• Most communities do not contribute towards the development of the school,
• Shortage of teachers and
• No adequate water sources in most schools in Napak district
He recommended that facilities for children with disabilities should be put in place (in their school) and the school should obtain space to allow the pupils engage in extra-curricular activities.
Otike Samuel, from Achelet Primary School in Napak District sharing his experience at school with participants during the meeting. Looking on and holding the microphone is his teacher Alex.
Recommendations from the meeting.
• MoFPED should develop a Policy Framework to mainstream children issues in the budgetary process.
• Donors should channel funds to child support through Local Governments due to their proximity to children.
• All stakeholders should increase the level of engagement on child protection matters.
• Institute children’s Parliaments at the sub county, district and national levels to engage effectively on children issues. For children to engage effectively in these parliaments their capacity has to be built by the elders.
• CSOs must use the media to engage and advocate for children’s’ plight considering their crucial role in exposing information.
• Finally, there is need to involve/engage politicians given the fact that they determine the budget dynamics in Uganda.
LEFT—RIGHT; Mr. Isaac Mpoza (MoFPED), Dr. Corti Paul Lakuma (EPRC),Hon. Mukitale (Former chair of Parliament committee on National Economy), Hon. David Bahati (Minister of State for Planning), Dr. Ezra Suruma (UDN Board Chair) and Dr. Fred Muhumuza (Research & Advocacy specialist—KPMG) comprised the panel at the Symposium.
Dr. Ezra Suruma, the former Bank of Uganda Governor and Senior Presidential Advisor on the economy has tasked government to ensure that all that is borrowed is put to the rightful use. While speaking at a Uganda Debt Network public symposium themed ‘Debt Dynamics and Management: Which way forward for Uganda’ - Prof. Suruma noted that Uganda ought to ensure that she doesn't suffer the Greek fate.
‘I was once directly in charge of paying these loans. Some of these didn't even have records but had to face the borrowers. Sometimes the State needed answers, which we didn't have’ Prof. Suruma added.
The symposium was attended by over 200 participants including legislators, members of the European Union, World Bank, Ministry of Finance officials and members from CSOs.
UDN Board Chairperson Prof. Ezra Suruma addressing the participants at the Debt Symposuim.
Honorable David Bahati, the State Minister for Planning, Ministry of Finance stressed that government hardly makes enough from borrowing domestically because there’s not enough available; 540 billion now in deficit.
He urged Ugandans to help the government provide social services like education, medical care and social security. Hon. Bahati tasked civil society to spearhead discussions that will provide policy options for government to ensure that the available resources are utilized to reduce foreign debt.
Dr. Fred Muhumuza who presented a paper on invigorating the debt question recommended that government strengthens institutions that manage loans. He added that there is a need to have the legal framework to regulate continuous borrowing without accountability the citizens.
Cross-section of participants during the Debt Symposium at Hotel Africana
UDN continues to empower local communities to ensure full citizen participation in planning and implementation of public services. Community members from Nebbi district under the UDN led Community Based Monitoring and Evaluation System (CBMES) model on 29th July 2015 presented findings from their monitoring exercises (education and health sectors) to district leaders during a district dialogue organised by Uganda Debt Network in Nebbi Town. Officials that attended the meeting include; the Chairman LCV, Chief Administrative Officer's Representative, District Education Officer (DEO), District Health Officer (DHO), District Internal Security Officer (DISO), District Inspector of Schools, Department heads and Sub County leadership from four sub counties (Erussi, Panyimur, Nyaravur and Alwi) in Nebbi District.
The community monitors discovered a number of issues in the sectors monitored that needed immediate attention from the district. In the Education sector (UPE) for instance, issues of lack of parental support towards the education of their children, poor sanitary facilities, absence of learning aids for children with special needs, laxity by teachers in preparing lessons plans stood out. Irregularity in posting and approving their transfers and lack of staff quarters were also revealed by the monitoring exercises.
The District Education Officer, Mr. Angara Patrick pledged to take on the issues as priority. Mr. Robert Okumu, the LC V noted that UDN was doing a noble job of building the capacity of community members as well as duty bearers in Nebbi. ‘UDN should also engage Government to the fullest since it does advocacy and lobbying so that the issues do not remain hanging,’ he added.
UDN with support from USAID/RTI empowers local communities in Nebbi district to demand for accountability from duty bearers as a way of improving service delivery.