Until October 31, New Vision will devote space to highlight the plight of slum dwellers as well as profiling those offering selfless service to improve conditions in these areas. Today, Joseph Wanzusi brings you the story of how Child Restoration Outreach has changed lives of street children in Mba
Until October 31, New Vision will devote space to highlight the plight of slum dwellers as well as profiling those offering selfless service to improve conditions in these areas. Today, Joseph Wanzusi brings you the story of how Child Restoration Outreach has changed lives of street children in Mbale district
The budget was simple; a quarter kilogram of salt sh300; half a litre of paraffin sh1,300; a tablet of soap sh300 and pain killers (paracetamol tablets) for grandmother at sh100.
So, on this sunny morning, 15-year-old Irene Nandudu, who lives in Busamaga slum in Mbale, needed to fetch and sell at least 20 jerrycans of water to meet the family’s budget. She sells each 20-litre jerrycan at sh100. It was a good day for Nandudu. By midday she had raised sh700.
Like other Ugandan slums, Busamaga is characterised by filth, crowded and unplanned shanty structures, poor sanitation and lack of basic amenities like health and education.
According to the 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, between 49-64% of Uganda’s estimated 3.2 urban dwellers live in slums. Of the slum dwellers in Uganda, only 14% have access to piped water. Vending water is, therefore, a lucrative business.
So in the blistering midday heat, Nandudu walks fast, balancing a 20-litre jerrycan of water in each hand. She stops to rest momentarily. Using the back of her hand, she wipes sweat from her face and lifts the jerrycans to move again.
However, someone beckons her, interrupting her journey. It is an official from Child Restoration Outreach (CRO), a local non-government organisation that supports destitute children in Mbale district. The official inquires why she is not at school.
Nandudu then narrated her ordeal. She says she dropped out of school in Primary Five after her father’s death. Her mother left her in the hands of a paternal grandmother and vanished. Nandudu’s grandmother did not have the resources to send her to school let alone feeding her.
“Besides selling water, my grandmother used to give me jackfruit to sell on Mbale town streets. We would use the money to buy food for the eight of us who lived with her in her mud-and-wattle hut,” says Nandudu, who is now back in school courtesy of CRO.
There are many children in Nandudu’s situation, especially in slums in Uganda. Lack of public support, programmes and breakdown in social protection schemes have forced these children to drop out of school and end up on the streets or engage in social ills like alcoholism, drug abuse or prostitution.
When CRO began
CRO was established in 1992 by a Dutch national, Ingrid Wilts, together with three Ugandans, to address the problem of street children following disturbances in Teso and Karamoja sub-regions. The CRO programme manager, Moses Bwayo, says they have, since 1998, extended their services to Jinja, Masaka and Lira towns.
At the Mbale centre, the programme rehabilitates about 60 children annually. It has 420 pupils in primary schools, 165 students in secondary and 37 in vocational training schools.
Thirty-five former street children are now in university and other tertiary institutions. Nandudu is in Primary Seven at Mayor Primary School in Busamaga Ward. She is one of the over 6,000 children living in the slums whose lives have been transformed by CRO.
Bwayo says between January and June this year, CRO resettled 40 children in the slum areas of Namatala, Malukhu, Busamaga, Musoto, Namakwekwe, Mooni and Doko in Mbale municipality.
When the International Labour Organisation launched a pilot project to eliminate child labour in Mbale, CRO was selected as the lead agency. Over 2,000 children have since either been withdrawn or prevented from child labour, regarded as one of the gross violations of children’s rights.
CRO seeks to resettle and re-integrate children into their families as a lasting solution instead of providing residential care. Usually after a year of successful rehabilitation, the children are enrolled in formal schools.
The older children who cannot attend primary schools are given vocational education and start-up kits. Through the project’s agricultural component on an 80-acres of land at Nauyo near Mbale town, the children are taught farming skills.
CRO Other interventions
Under its outreach programmes, CRO has also helped women and men clubs in activities like adult literacy campaigns, family planning, immunisation programmes and empowerment through giving them soft loans.
The clubs are constituted by parents or guardians, who meet once a week under the guidance of CRO social workers to share experiences and learn about children’s rights. They also learn about parenting skills, planning for their families, HIV/AIDS, income-generating skills and child nutrition.
It is through such meetings that 18-year-old Elisa Wakholi was spotted caring not only for himself, but also for two of his siblings in Namatala slum.
With CRO support, Wakholi, now a Senior Four student at Maluku Secondary School says their father, formerly working with National Water and Sewerage Corporation abandoned them following the death of their mother due to HIV/Aids. His dream is to study veterinary medicine at university so he can offer practical advice on farming to the communities.
With support from Stromme Foundation of Norway, CRO is empowering the beneficiaries through sports and has embarked on the construction of a sports complex at Manyonyi village near Mbale town. A club house is already in place. The NGO has established a football academy, where children below10 years are trained in soccer skills.
Mbale district plans
The district chairman Bernard Mujasi and Mayor Mutwalibbi Zandya described CRO as a development partner that has made an impact on slum dwellers in Mbale town. “It has done a lot in helping street children return to normal childhood life by integrating them back into community through education, health services and other social services necessary for a child’s growth,” Zandya said.
District labour officer Stephen Makai Nangosya says CRO has done a tremendous job by supplementing government community development programmes, but needs support to continue helping orphaned and vulnerable children.
Mujasi says the district has proposed that government elevates Nauyo slum into a town board for proper planning and infrastructure development and to enable the communities benefit from programmes like NAADS and NUSAF. “When a town board is set it is easy to plan for services like piped water, electricity supply, sanitation and garbage management,” said Mujasi.
Child Restoration Outreach, another sunny day for children in Mbale slums