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.