JUNE 16 was the Day of the African Child. Alice Emasu attended the celebrations in Entebbe and interviewed children about domestic violence, AIDS and their welfare.
The children from Nsamizi, Nkumba, Nkumba Qurâ€™an, St Joseph, Kiwafu Muslim, Uganda Airport and Nakyogo primary schools, among others, said that domestic violence was responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS and the increasing number of orphans.
They also blamed the increasing number of school dropouts on domestic violence.
The children were making presentations on the Day of the African Child. The theme for this yearâ€™s day was: The African child and family: child rights and HIV/AIDS The celebrations were organised by Entebbe Women Association (EWA).
The presentations included, drama, songs and poems in English and local languages.
Jacinta Nimusiima,14, of St Josephâ€™s Katabi told The New Vision that husbands should stop divorcing their wives because when they do, the children suffer.
â€œMost children fail to concentrate in class when their mothers are not at home,â€ she said.
She said though she had not had such an experience, most of her friends have moving testimonies and have expressed fear that they may drop out of school in the near future.
â€œSome of my friends complain that whenever their fathers threaten to chase away their mothers, they feel bad because they know for them, that would be the end of school.â€
As for Saddam Mondo, 13, it is always starvation and misery for children when mothers are not at home.
â€œMany fathers do not want to buy enough food for their children. Some of them do not want to cook and instead harass the children when they find them playing before cooking,â€ he said.
Many parents are dying of AIDS because some our fathers beat up and divorce our mothers. When they realise that they can not stay alone, they look for other women and they end up getting HIV/AIDS,â€ he added.
Madina Nangendo,15, of Nkumba Qurâ€™an School says, â€œMany Ugandan children are suffering because of the behaviour of our parents. It is true that right now, children in Gulu are suffering because of the war, but many boys in other districts are also faced with problems of sugar mummies. There are sugar mummies who force young boys to marry them. I want them to stop this mistakeâ€
Oliver Nalubega,14, of St Josephâ€™s P/S school said, â€œWhen HIV/AIDS strikes, it leaves children as orphans. After the death of a father or both parents, all the family property that would have helped to educate the children is usually grabbed by relatives and family friends. I know many of my friends and relatives who stopped going to school after losing their parents to AIDS.
This should stop. Many orphans do not go to school and donâ€™t even have homes to stay in. When parents die of AIDS, sometimes they will have also infected our younger sisters and brothers.â€
Gofin Nyolongo, 15, also of St Josephâ€™s P/S said some mothers invite violence in the homes â€˜by not listening to our fathersâ€™. Some of them like gossiping and refuse to work at home. They should stop it because when they are beaten and chased away from home, we the children bear all the pain,â€ he said. â€œLife without any one of the parents is bad. Life without a mother is even worse.â€
Kiwafu pupils sang a song lamenting about the child rights abuse. They said children suffer from the time they are born, throughout their adulthood, if at all they survive.
They said many Ugandan children die before enjoying freedom.â€
Judith Greg, child and nutrition volunteer with EWA said although many children are abused, the situation is even worse for children with disabilities.
â€œIn Uganda, when parents identify a disability in a baby, they shun the baby and lock him up in the house. She said there was evidence that such children, if well looked after, can grow up to become useful citizens.
â€œHandicapped children have all the rights that able-bodied children are entitled to,â€ she stressed.
She said the livelihood of children with disabilities would improve if their rights were protected. She called on communities to support the Government by ensuring that all children, including those with disabilities, go school.
Dr Elizabeth Kiboneka of Mildmay Childrenâ€™s Centre said records show that 100,000 children are living with HIV/AIDS and some of them have either lost one or both parents.
Margaret Fowler, also a volunteer with EWA, pledged to supply textbooks to EWA Resource Centre.
Margaret Tuhumwire, the director of EWA, lamented that some of the children who participated were studying under asbestos roofs, in dilapidated classrooms with no equipment, or walked long distances to look for water. She said EWA had contributed towards the renovation of buildings, connected piped water and donated office and classroom equipment to some of these schools, in addition to paying teachers for at least three years.
Children condemn domestic violence