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From Exploitation to Education and Empowerment through Child Friendly Communities

Due to socio-economic situation in rural Uganda, education is not a priority for many families, leading to a vicious cycle of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. To support household income, children get pushed into child labour at an early age, thus missing out on an education. Though Education Act, 2008 states that Basic education shall be provided and enjoyed as a right by all, in reality, access of education is limited to few children on the basis of their parent's affordability, which violates children’s right to education.Addressing this concern, the intervention/project called “From Exploitation to Education and Empowerment through Child Friendly Communities” involved activities to achieve the outcome of increased access to schools/education by child labourers and/or out-of-school children, including through engaging organic civil society structures at community level.This 2 year project marked a number of achievements including enrolling 1200 (primarily between age group of 5-14 years) child labourers and out of school children (including 50% girls) in schools from the district of Mbale and Mukono in Uganda. However the process of bringing these children to school has been tough due to resistance faced from the communities and parents. However due to persistent engagement with with parents, children themselves and school authorities, field staff enrolled children in 9 primary schools (government) across Mbale and Mukono districts, covering 20 project villages. . These children reported to school in second term of academic session, and were provided scholastic support under the project for their enrolment and retention. Scholastic support provided included tuition fees, payment for meals, books and uniform.

Enrolment of these 1200 children has contributed to positive results in favour of education at community level, including some that were unexpected. Including meal payment in scholastic support was a key component in school enrolment, given that otherwise children would miss out on school to work for daily sustenance. To support the enrolment/retention of child labourers and/or out-of-school children and raise issues at community level with authorities, stakeholders and community at large on education, child labour, health, etc., civil society structures – Children’s Parliaments (9 at school level), Youth Groups and Women’s Groups (19 each at village level), constituting members from the community were formed.

A Children’s Parliament is a children’s body where children democratically elect their leader to raise relevant issues concerning them and the community. These Children’s Parliaments were formed in the districts of Mbale & Mukono by conducting elections at school levels, along with forming Youth and Women’s Groups, that complement the work of Children’s Parliament in the community and strengthen the democratic system at the village level. Youth and Women’s Groups are  sensitised on their role towards ensuring all children of the community are in education.

The school feeding programme is a key factor for enrolment and retention in schools in rural areas. Currently, schools inrural Uganda provide meals at a cost and also charge other fees from parents, going against the spirit of Education Act. Thus, along with effective implementation of Education Act, there is a need for an institutional programme/mechanism for school feeding to children, especially in primary education.

Global March thus organised a National Workshop on Child Labour & Education with CSOs of Uganda on 1 June 2017 to find consensus on the key policy issues concerning education and child labour in the country and present them to the policy makers during the National Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Child Labour & Education held on 2 June, inviting Government Representatives, Members of Parliament, CSOs, UN Agencies and INGOs.

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