OPINION | EDUCATION
End violence in and around schools to increase retention and completion
By David Omoding
Today, June 16, Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of the African Child.
This year’s National Celebrations will take place at Iganga district under the theme: “Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunities for Children in Uganda by 2030.”
The day is celebrated annually since 1991, when it was initiated by the Organisation of African Unity now African Union. It aims at raising awareness about the continued need for improved education among African children. It honors hundreds of young students murdered in the Soweto uprising in 1976, protesting the poor quality education.
In Uganda, it is commemorated to reflect on the progress achieved in addressing challenges children face in and around schools including high teacher absenteeism and student dropout rate, poor hygiene and sanitation coupled with lack of menstrual towels for girls; physical, psychological, emotional and sexual violence inflicted on learners by school administrators, teachers and community members; child marriage, teenage pregnancies and child labour.
As we celebrate, Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda Chapter (FAWEU) calls upon Government and policy makers through the line Ministry of Education and Sports to urgently address all forms of violence matted against children.
It is every child’s right to enjoy a violence-free environment.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) outlines all children have right to good quality education that respects their human dignity and promotes their development.
Uganda Constitution (1995) Articles 24 and 44, protects dignity and safety of every Ugandan including children. However, violence against children remains a pervasive challenge in Uganda; it undermines their security and safety as well as inflicts pain and fear affecting educational attainment; health and well-being of girls and boys. It’s associated with several psychological and emotional negative effects and affects the child’s self-esteem to take advantage of existing opportunities.
In some cases it has resulted into serious physical injuries - permanent disabilities and mental damage.
According to the UNICEF 2014 Study on Violence against Children in Schools, “77.7% children faced Sexual violence in primary schools and 82% secondary, 74.3% violently abused-75.6% in Government schools compared to 73% private, 82% children subjected to caning; doing difficult work – digging, slashing and collecting water in pretext to ‘pushing’ them to attain higher grades.”
The Study adds, “8% girls are defiled, 24% spoken to in sexual way, 18% receive marriage proposals, 25% fondled in sexual manner and 29% made to watch pornography.”
FAWEU Baseline Survey 2016 on Violence against Children in and around Schools reports, “81% of school children experienced at least one form of violence in schools (77% boys and 66% girls), physical violence mainly perpetrated by male teachers 78%, male pupils 32% and female teachers 23%. 33% male and 34% female reported exposure to sexual violence.
Sexual abuse happens in toilets, classrooms, staffrooms, on the way to/from school and in teachers’ houses. Perpetrators of sexual abuse are mainly male students 61%.”
In this regard, FAWEU calls upon Government/Policy Makers, School Administrators and Local Council Authorities and Community Members to exhaustively explore means into preventing and eliminating acts of violence in and around schools i.e. strengthen the capacity of duty bearers, rights holders to enforce guidelines on Reporting, Tracking, Referral and Response (RTRR) Guidelines on VACis, build capacity of educational staff, parents and children on child protection, ensure codes of conduct are adhered to, strengthening institutional collaboration among schools, police and other justice dispensing agencies and activate a coherent referral system among different child protection actors to ensure that children exposed to abuse receive comprehensive support services.
The writer is the communications and advocacy officer of the Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda Chapter