Friday, 18 July 2014

Human Rights Sensitization Increases Awareness And Consciousness On Children’s Rights To Education In Kyenjojo District

Kyenjojo district has for a long time been challenged by poor academic performance and continuous school dropouts. According to a baseline survey conducted by Kyenjojo NGOs and CBOs Forum (KNCF) in 2013 and subsequent reports since then, the dropout rate between 2011 and 2013 was 8 % while academic performance was generally poor. For example out of the 14,709  pupils who sat Primary leaving exams (PLE) in UPE schools between the period 2011 – 2013 schools, only 669 passed in Division I, while 7,496 passed in Division II, 2,937 in Division III and the rest, 4,085  failed.  
Poor academic performance and continuous school dropouts are attributed to mainly lack/limited parents’ support of education programs; most parents prefer investing in farming to education either because farming offers quicker/faster profits than education or because they lack adequate knowledge and understanding on the benefits of education and children’s rights to education. Other issues challenging education in Kyenjojo district include poverty, domestic violence, child neglect, early marriages, and child labour.

As a development partner, KNCF with support from Independent Development Fund (IDF) through its “Protection of the rights of Women and Children project” between January to May 2014 was able to get sixty seven (67) pupils back to school, handle and settle 100 cases of child abuse and domestic violence, and also reach and sensitize 16,835 children in 25 primary schools about their rights to education. The sensitized children have formed 25 child rights clubs, which go around educating and sensitizing other children about their rights and responsibilities to education. According to Mpamize Robinson a primary seven (P.7) pupil at Butunduuzi Model, child advocacy has yielded. We are glad for the information on children’s rights and to be involved in this sensitization work. We now know our rights and responsibilities to education as children. We also have been taught on how to demand for and how to protect our rights. We hope to be listened to and to see reduced cases of rights abuse among children Mpamize asserts.

In its interventions, KNCF has through these Child Rights Clubs and women rights activists, community sensitization outreaches, and Advocacy engagements with duty bearers at service Parish, Sub County and District level educated and empowered the populace with knowledge and skills on children’s rights, women’s rights and child protection. This undertaking has led to increased awareness and consciousness on the rights of women and children especially on the issue of education, as well as increased participation of women and children in development initiatives and processes.
Cases of this are evident in the testimonies from the community about the activists’ support to neglected children; for example Kebirungi Agnes an 18 years old primary six (p6) pupil at Rwentuha Primary School in Bugaaki Sub County dropped out of school in 2011 after her fathers’ death and mother’s failure to pay her school fees. Because of the harsh conditions at home, Agnes sought a job as a bar attendant and house maid. Unfortunately for her, she was impregnated and also neglected by the man. While at the bar Agnes was met by Kaija Helen a human rights activist who educated her on the value of education and encouraged her to go back to school after birth. Agnes gave birth and took the baby to her mother and later went back to school. She is now the head girl, chairperson child rights club and one of the best performers in class. Agnes testifies that Life at school is promising and better. She is grateful to the activist for her counsel and support.

Another example is of Kyaligaba a S.I student at Maddox Secondary School. Kyaligaba was neglected by her father while in primary six. She sought help from activists who engaged her father with little success. Looking at the little girl’s zeal for education one activist Businge Rose encouraged her to consider doing petty jobs after classes, weekends and holidays to raise money for her scholastic needs. Kyaligabba agreed and Rose found her several of these to do.
When I reached p6, I almost failed to continue with studies, but with counseling, guidance and support of the activist, I did not stop schooling. I have been able to hang on and reach S.1 and I look forward to go to university too. Doing petty jobs and rearing chicken have enabled me to pay for my school requirements and brought me this far.” Says Kyaligaba.

As more awareness on children’s rights to education is created, more children are going to  return to, stay in and complete school.  Similarly an improvement in the parents’ support towards education programs is yet to be witnessed. These coupled with other interventions by Kyenjojo District Local Government, will definitely foster improved academic performance and address the historical challenge of school dropouts in Kyenjojo district.