By Harriet Nalutaaya
The Children's Act of 1997 describes a child as a person below the age of 18 years. A child is entitled to education and guidance, immunisation, adequate diet, clothing, shelter and medical attention. The Act makes mention of child protection from discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect and also caters for ‘a probation and social welfare officer' and a minister to approve homes for children.
At the crown of this week, I was tasked to look up emails of organisations that deal with children. I was alarmed by the high existence of child care centres and orphanages in Uganda. They are generally characterised by a scripture tag line, ‘Donate Now' button and a sponsorship programme. Other denominations hardly boast of these ministries. Fewer homes exist for only kids with special needs.
In Uganda, the concept of family by the blood line is still predominant and valued. The family still holds water in our important days; the graduation, the marriage and the funeral. Why then have orphanages taken root? Have we become a nation for only immediate family that we choose to let ‘Samaritans' completely take one of our genealogy? Many Ugandans are living below the poverty line. Is it now better to abandon kids so they receive ‘better' care in these said donor funded homes? I am of the belief that these overwhelming orphanages give Uganda a bad name and image. It even suggests that orphanages are incentives to mothers to become more irresponsible, after all there is a home where the kid will/ may even fly out as part of the ‘choir'. Cases are common where infants are dropped right at the gates of these centres.
Yes it is good to take care of orphans and the job is commendable but anything in excess is disturbing. How can we say we are hospitable if such so many children are not within the reach of their relatives? I suggest that it is important we strengthen the child and family protection unit of the Police and social development department to regulate these orphanages or set up a foster home to take in children who are unwilling to go back to home.
There is need to reinforce child friendly policing such as extending Police services to schools and prayer temples. Better still, the fundamental cause of this issue need be addressed with counselling so that the family unit is stronger and orphanages reduced in Uganda.
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