A study done by three researchers under fhi360, a research firm, titled, “Child Vulnerability and education attainment in Uganda’, shows that orphans in age ranges of six to 12 years are more likely to be out of school than primary aged non- orphans
John Atugonza, became an ‘adult' just at 14 years of age when both his parents passed on in an accident. He started raising his siblings, much as he was not yet an adult.
Fortunately, at the time, there was universal secondary education, provided by the Government. However, after Senior Six, he decided to start a charcoal business to earn some money to keep his two siblings in school; who have, as of today all managed to graduate from various universities.
He is just one of the several orphans in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa, who struggles to look after their siblings and themselves. A few lucky few, study to the tertiary level, but a number of them fail to join or stay in school.
Of late, the number of orphans in school has been increasing in the country, much as it has started. The 2016 UBOS report shows that the number and percentage of orphans in schools, reduced from 1,256,172 (15.1%) in 2012 to 956,972 (11.5%), and later shot up to 1,073,569 (12.4%) the following year. Today, it is estimated by the education ministry that there are 1,200,100 orphans in school, accounting for 13.4% of children in school.
The 2017 Education Sector Report shows that majority of the orphans; 905,610 (84.4%) are found in Government schools. Analysis by grade indicates that most orphans are in P.1 (206,054) and these decrease with ascendance to higher classes. This indicates the possibility of orphans dropping out of school due to various reasons.
A study done by three researchers under fhi360, a research firm, titled, "Child Vulnerability and education attainment in Uganda', shows that orphans in age ranges of six to 12 years are more likely to be out of school than primary aged non- orphans.
"In Uganda, this is only true of children aged 6-9." It reads.
Among children aged 10-13 and 14-17 in Uganda, the study shows, "Orphans are 50 percent more likely to be out of school than non-orphans and differences are statistically significant."
More so, overall, the number of primary-aged orphans who are out of school is 18 percent in Tanzania to 12 percent in Uganda.
The study adds that, although older orphans appear to be disadvantaged in terms of school attendance, those who do attend school do not appear to perform any better or worse than non-orphans on the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) learning assessment.
Tuition-free primary education has been available in Uganda for two decades but universal enrollment has yet to be attained, as the Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) stands at 83%; owing to issues like orphanhood and poverty, among others, keeping children out of school. Studies show that due to lack of guidance, financial and moral support, at times some orphans end up dropping out of school. There are also several hidden costs and at times illegal costs, under free primary education, like lunch fees, uniforms, books and boarding school fees.
Usually, the most obvious and likely outcome of being an orphan especially at a very tender age is missing out on education, according to a 2012 study by Anthony Tamusuza, a researcher in Uganda. Several recent studies have shown that orphans are more vulnerable than non-orphans concerning schooling.
In his research, ‘Leaving School Early: The quest for Universal Primary Education in Uganda' he says, being an orphan, alongside other factors increase the likelihood of children dropping out of school.
Tamusuza's study also shows, "Orphans and non-orphans are equally likely to enroll in primary school but, once enrolled, orphans are more likely to drop out."
The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) reports show that there are about 2.4 million orphaned children in Uganda. The findings further show that orphanhood in Uganda has been slightly on the decrease across the three survey periods, from 15% in 2005/06 to 11% in 2016/17.
The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey report shows that, 32% of households in Uganda have foster or orphaned children. There are more households with single (have lost one parent) orphans (12%) than double orphans (lost both parents) (2%).
The same report shows that there are over 88,000 children (0.7%) who are living in child-headed households, while 13.1 percent (1.8 million children) lived in elderly headed households. Some of these child-headed home, are headed by orphans.
Is free education a solution
Free primary education partly helping reduce of the drop out of orphans as the former education minister Namirembe Bitamazire says. "But this cannot be a complete solution to this problem. Orphans need much more than school fees," she says.
Ronald Mayanja, the founder of Ability Explored, an organization geared at helping orphans and vulnerable children also says, "Even with free primary and secondary education, children do not only need fees to keep in school," argues.
"Apart from social protection, children also need uniforms, books, and food to eat. "Without good families, social networks and organizations to help, we are ignoring a big population in our country. This a big lot of abandoned children in the country," Mayanja adds.
Although the Government allocates 14% of its total budget to education, households still foot the highest bill towards the education of their children. This means that even with free education, orphans in whichever homes they stay in, still suffer with the blunt of paying fees.
The 2016 National Education Accounts (NEA) report by UBOS and the education ministry, with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), found that in 2014, households funded 47.23% of the education budget, the Government 27.21% and development partners 24.65%, up from 6.05% in the previous year. The same report shows that most of the Government expenditure went to paying salaries (38%) and administrative costs- 41%; leaving the funding of pedagogy to parents.
"A lot of information on household expenditure goes unrecorded and yet the household expenditure contribution to the sector is highly signiﬁcant," stated the report.
The 2016 UNESCO studies also note that that with fees averaging $450 (about sh1.6m) per year in primary and secondary urban schools, many families simply cannot afford to send their children to a good school.
With Uganda's GDP per capita at $673.21 (2015), it means families are spending almost three-quarters of their incomes on education leaving nothing for savings or investment.
Joseph Mulindwa, a parent at St. Mary's College Kisubi says, "With this kind of high-cost education, how do orphans without so much help get to cope?"
Epaphrodite Nsabimana, the learning and research manager at Hope and Homes for children, a charity organisation based in the UK, that seeks to eliminate orphanages has three words to say about institutionalization of children; unwanted, damaging and unnecessary.
He notes that globally, about 8million children live in orphanages despite their demerits.
Nsabimana explains, "Residential care facilities require staffing, salaries must be paid, buildings must be maintained et cetera"
The researcher explains that in South Africa, they found that keeping a child in institutional care was six times more expensive than keeping them in a family. Also in Tanzania, they found that the annual cost of keeping a child in an institution cost $1000, still six times the cost of one child in a family.
More so, Ronald Mayanja, the founder of Ability Explored, an organization geared at helping orphans and vulnerable children say the onus is on all of us to lend whatever we can, to help the needy. "It is not just about money. All kind of help can be vital in helping needy children. I personally at times run campaigns to collect sh1,000 from whoever cares, for the orphans we take care of."
He was a couple of weeks ago, at St. Cyprian High School, Kyabakadde in Mukono, on the same campaign. "I do believe in children growing up in other people' homes, not orphanages."
His organization is taking care of about 100 orphans in different schools around the country. "Instead of waiting for donations, we also try to teach children to work hard wherever they have a chance to improve their lives. We go to communities and schools, to get students to collect their coins to support their colleagues."
He adds, that a focused orphan is more likely to succeed in life if fully committed to the cause of making it in life. "We must as a country and communities be intentional in helping orphans."
More so, Pr. Wilson Bugembe says that all churches and communities must find a way of protecting the children in their vicinity. "You are the best people in your community to shield the children from all troubles of life. Wherever I find an opportunity, I always try to help the orphans in whichever way I can, since I was also an orphan."
Pr. Bugembe, who partly raised his brothers, started an orphanage with his friends, way back as secondary school students. Their desire to support the needy later grew into an orphanage now run by his friend Apostle Wilfred Rugumba. Their philosophy is that it is better to support orphans within the homes of their relatives, other than a foster home.
Government through the minister of gender, labour and social development is working closely with orphanages, to ensure they are monitored and other closed, to get children to their families. Government, as a policy believes children should grow up with relatives and not orphanages.
The assistant commissioner for children James Kaboggoza says Government would want to see most of the orphanages closed. "Child need a better support system of their communities they come from, not orphanages."
The state minister for higher education Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo says that parents and communities should be open to supporting the orphans.
"All children who lose their parents deserve to live a good and normal life like all other children. It is more reason I advocate for children to be raised in relatives' homes, other than orphanages if there is a choice. Unfortunately, at times, this choice is not available," he says.
He calls upon all people, in their different groupings, to start foundations to support such children. "We should not wait for other people to help those children. It starts with you. What have you done, to give back to the Lord who has helped you grow and succeed? If we all care and pay attention, orphans ill not failed to get educated."
He also calls upon the willing school proprietors, to always offer some slots to orphans and vulnerable children. "But it starts with your heart. You cannot force people to help."
Other countries case studies
In Africa, Rwanda is in the final lap of closing its orphanages and so far, 80 percent of the children under institutional care in Rwanda have been reintegrated into either home-based care system. In Malawi, the government is already closing down 400 orphanages and reintegrating the children into the community.