His recovery and progress from such abuse to a happy and optimistic life emphasised the difference childrenâ€™s rights can make. Similarly, the neighbourâ€™s great efforts emphasise the importance of everyoneâ€™s responsibility in child protection.
Sebbangaâ€™s story remains a lesson on childrenâ€™s rights in Uganda as the country celebrates with the rest of the world the Universal Day of Children on November 20 which marks the 20th anniversary of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child picks inspiration from the UN CRC to contextualise the rights and welfare of Africaâ€™s children. Uganda is party to this most signed and ratified treaty where countries commit themselves to ensure that children enjoy their rights and freedoms. The numerous stories of violation of the rights of the child cast a dark cloud on Ugandaâ€™s children.
Despite this, there have been some milestones in the past 20 years. The CRC, through the African Charter, formed the basis for the establishment of the Children Act in Uganda set up to provide a legal framework for the protection of children. This has resulted in the establishment of Child and Family Courts, the National Council for Children, Family and Child protection Units in the Police and others.
Several Ugandan children enjoy their rights to education, healthcare, protection, survival and others. These, however, must be supported by attitude change since many Ugandans still think childrenâ€™s rights â€˜spoilâ€™ children and therefore shun them. In reality, rights come with responsibilities that they are obliged to perform as guided by the African Charter. Children are human beings just like everybody else and at their age, are a vulnerable lot and therefore need protection.
While Universal Primary Education has resulted in increase in enrollment in primary school from 2.6 million in 1996 to 7 million children in 2004, some children have never been to school. Dropout rates are still high and there are concerns about the quality of education.
Programmes like Save the Children in Ugandaâ€™s Alternative Basic Education for Karamoja, the programme in Bundibugyo for children who previously could not access education because of the mountainous terrains, reintegration of children in northern Uganda, can be further upheld by different actors to ensure that children enjoy their rights. Such programmes are more relevant, following the recognition of non-formal education in the recently amended Education Act.
The tasks ahead are still great. The Government and civil society can only achieve much with more participation and involvement of Ugandans in promoting childrenâ€™s rights.
Ssebangaâ€™s story a lesson on kidsâ€™ rights